J. Arthur Bloom
feuilleton of the counter-revolution. free radical, front-porch reactionary. stay a while.
"too long have I lived among those who hate peace." -- Psalm 120:6
"you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” -- 1 Samuel 8:18
It was the excommunication of Elizabeth by Pope Pius V, in his papal bull Regnans in Excelsis promulgated in 1570, that had turned those who could not share the Queen’s religious beliefs and practice into traitors. Pius condemned Elizabeth as a heretic, accused her of a “monster-like” usurpation of the English throne and proclaimed that any Catholics who dared to obey her would be placing themselves under the same curse. People could be subject to the Queen or to the Pope; they could not owe allegiance to both.
Though the chief protagonists of God’s Traitors are the various generations of the Northamptonshire Vaux (pronounced “Vorx”) family, it is in the portrayal of the Jesuit priests who were their friends and spiritual mentors that this book really comes alive. Central to the story is the life and ministry of Henry Garnet, the Jesuit Superior in England from 1586, protected by his disciples among the Vaux family and friends and implicated in the Gunpowder Plot through having been told about it and done nothing to stop it. After years of successfully evading the authorities, Garnet was finally arrested and condemned. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in St Paul’s Churchyard in May 1606, but was at least fortunate enough to have died before being eviscerated."
Change is hard for any ideologue, and that includes the ideologues that thrive on continuous change, or “progress” as they call it. While some so-called true believers in the draft age demographic will likely balk, with a classic lack of humor, at such a saying, I will still say that leftism has, in the wake of the Baby Boom, gone above ground and is nowhere near as contrarian as it was when their fathers were actually at risk of being drafted. This is hardly a new statement for anyone who’s been out of college for more than two years or so, if not less. It seems that the glamour of leftism was taken to the firing squad along with Che Guevera. Whatever remains has been cosmetically disfigured from glamour to vanity and thrown into the sphere of Hollywood’s plutocratic, indulgent elite, power lusting blowhards (Hugo Chavez), diluted full-time guerillas (FARC), aging “activist” professors (take your pick) and, of all people, your goddamn parents. …
Conservatism offers up countless connotations. Its chief perpetrations, as vilified when the Baby Boomers were coming of age, have long been linked with the deadly sins of repression: romantic nostalgia, paranoia-driven totalitarianism, macho combativeness, short hair, racism and basically being retarded all around. This is all true only in the sense that these things can be associated with most of humanity—ironically, Baby Boomers are the leading perpetrators of all of these. What’s important is that the more George W. Bush fails at life, the more justified the moderates and liberals will be in labeling the Right as wrong. Get all the people who have little faith in the Bush administration to follow suit in that assertion and you have something very cool. And by cool I mean actually, legitimately cool, not ironically cool or something kind of cool that should be tried once at everyone’s leisure.
Simply put, conservatism is the new dirty cultural secret that has the potential to be as titillating as porn was in the ’70s. Maybe titillating is a bit strong to link to such an uptight ideology. It’s at least an attractive political taboo."
You’ve heard that thing about Faulkner and Clark Gable haven’t you? Howard Hawks was taking Faulkner out on a quail shoot and came by to pick him up a little before dawn to get to where they were going by first light. Clark Gable was in the car, and Faulkner in the backseat. As they rode along, Gable and Hawks got to talking. Gable said, You know, you’re a well-read man, Howard. I’ve always been meaning to do some reading. I never have really done it. What do you think I ought to read? And Hawks said, Why don’t you ask Bill back there. He’s a writer, and he’ll be able to tell you. Gable said, Do you write, Mr. Faulkner? Faulkner said, Yes, Mr. Gable. What do you do? …
Walker Percy and I were driving from Greenville, Mississippi, to Sewanee, Tennessee, where we often spent one or two months in the summer. I had read Light in August and was tremendously impressed by it. It was the first modern novel I read—a hell of a first one too. From that point on, all through the thirties I was reading all the Faulkner up to then: Doctor Martino, Pylon, Absalom, The Unvanquished. So I said, We ought to stop by Oxford and see William Faulkner. Walker said, I’m not going to knock on that man’s door. I don’t know him. I said, Hell, he’s a writer. It’s all right. (A remark I’ve learned to regret when it’s applied to me in these later years.) So we drove over to where a double line of cedars ran along the brick walk to the doorway. We parked over to the side. There were about a dozen dogs there—a dalmatian, two or three hounds, some bird dogs, and three or four fox terriers. I got out of the car and waded through all those dogs and went up to the front door and knocked. The door opened and there stood Faulkner. I said, Mr. Faulkner, my name is Shelby Foote. I’m from over at Greenville and I was wondering if you could tell me where I can find a copy of The Marble Fawn. (I didn’t want a copy of The Marble Faun; that was only a cover tactic. I wanted to say hello to Mr. Faulkner.) He said, Well, I don’t have one, but my agent Leland Hayward might be able to find you one. He said, You over from the Delta, huh. I said, Yeah. He said, Come on, we’ll walk down this way."
As I see it, my focus has never been on masculine power rampant and triumphant but rather on the antithesis: masculine power impaired. I have hardly been singing a paean to male superiority but rather representing manhood stumbling, constricted, humbled, devastated and brought down. I am not a utopian moralist. My intention is to present my fictional men not as they should be but vexed as men are.
The drama issues from the assailability of vital, tenacious men with their share of peculiarities who are neither mired in weakness nor made of stone and who, almost inevitably, are bowed by blurred moral vision, real and imaginary culpability, conflicting allegiances, urgent desires, uncontrollable longings, unworkable love, the culprit passion, the erotic trance, rage, self-division, betrayal, drastic loss, vestiges of innocence, fits of bitterness, lunatic entanglements, consequential misjudgment, understanding overwhelmed, protracted pain, false accusation, unremitting strife, illness, exhaustion, estrangement, derangement, aging, dying and, repeatedly, inescapable harm, the rude touch of the terrible surprise — unshrinking men stunned by the life one is defenseless against, including especially history: the unforeseen that is constantly recurring as the current moment.
It is the social struggle of the current moment on which a number of these men find themselves impaled."