Roads by Larry McMurtry

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I can’t get enough of these Larry McMurtry non-fiction books, as I’ve discussed before and another time and one other time.  In this book, McMurtry drives American highways, writing down anything that occurs to him or seems interesting:

The most interesting thing that ever happened to me in southern Oklahoma happened when I was a boy.  My backwoods uncle Jeff Dobbs took me deep in the woods, to the cabin of an aged Choctaw preacher, an old man said to have the power to draw out tumors.  In his small cabin there were long rows of Mason jars, each containing a tumor that had been drown out.  It was dim in the cabin.  I couldn’t see what was in the jars very clearly, but it definitely wasn’t string beans or pickled peaches.  I was very impressed and not a little frightened.  Uncle Jeff knew a few words of Choctaw — listening to him talk to the old man was when I first realized there were languages other than English.

More than fifty years after I peered at them in the gloom of the old preacher’s cabin, the shelves of tumors reappeared in Pretty Boy Floyd, the first of two novels I wrote with Diana Ossana.  This time “the cancers,” as they are referred to, appear as decoration in a backwoods honky-tonk.

He muses on how the great travel writers tend be into only one type of landscape (McMurtry’s is the plains):

Charles Doughty lived almost his whole life in a wet country but wrote his great book about the desert – the same deserts would later draw the best out of Wilfred Thesiger, St. John Philby, T. E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, and Freya Stark.  Aurel Stein, Sven Hedin, Charles Marvin, Mildred Cable and Francesca French (the nuns of the Gobi), Curzon, and Ney Elias returned again and again to central Asia.  Humboldt, Alfred Russell Wallace, and Henry Bates took their genius to the Amazon; while Mr. Darwin looked hard wherever he went.  Certainly, when it came to those finches in the Galapagos, he looked every bit as hard as Picasso looked at Matisse.

Charles Doughty

But even the ocean interests McMurtry, an epic reader:

My drives across the American land had taken me far enough that I had begun to feel a vague urge to try a different mode of travel.  For the past month or so I had been reading the leisurely, tolerant travel books of the English zoologist F. D. Ommanney, a man who knows a lot about fish, and a lot, also, about the world’s oceans and the people who live beside them – particularly the island peoples of the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific.  F. D. Ommanney was a fish finder, a man who, in the years after World War II, puttered around in remote oceans attempting to estimate whether a given stretch of ocean contained fish enough to make commercial fishing profitable.  I think, though, that what he cared about was the sea, not the fishing.  In books such as A Draught of Fishes, The Shoals of Capricorn, Eastern Windows, and South Latitude, he describes his journeys through the seas and islands so appealingly that a landlocked person such as myself begins to feel that he has really been missing something: that is, the world’s oceans, along whose trade routes – invisible highways – the great ships proceed.

The appeal of F. D. Ommanney’s books – fairly popular in the 1950s but mostly forgotten now – is their intimacy with the sea and its ways, and also with the ways of people whose lives are bound to the sea.  Conrad and Melville wrote powerfully of the oceans, but their works don’t exactly bring one into an intimacy with the world of waters.  In Conrad and also in Melville the sea is too powerful, too often the environment of crisis, to be merely appealing.  Though these great writers see the ocean’s beauty they rarely allow the reader to be unaware that this beauty comes with a threat, moral or physical or both.

Ommanney is not a novelist – he is just a man with a deep interest in the natural world, particularly with the world of the ocean; through many travels he preserves a fond curiosity about the lives of peoples of the islands, people who can scarcely imagine a life apart from the sea.

Fragrant Harbour

While driving in Arizona, this occurs to McMurtry:

Near Wilcox there’s a famous tourist stop advertising THE THING – in fact an Anasazi mummy.

(actually this article seems to suggest it’s a fake made by a well-known maker of sideshow artifacts)

The Thing

McMurtry gets going on the Plains Indians wars, and Ranald Mackenzie:

Mackenzie was a highly effective officer, one of the most skilled and determined to fight on the plains frontier.  But he was not a happy man.  Juste before he was to marry, in 1883, he went crazy and spent the remaining six years of his life in an insane asylum in New York State.  Ranald Mackenzie’s insanity is one of the strange, haunting mysteries thrown up by the frontier conflicts.  Many pioneer women went crazy, and it was not hard to see why; the women were not necessarily overdelicate, either.  The living conditions were just too bleak, too isolating.  But the insanity of Ranald Mackenzie, one of the most disciplined and succesful officers to participate in the campaigns of the plains frontier, is evidence that the price of winning the west was not simple and not low, even for the winners, not when one considers that Ranald Mackenzie, the soldier who took the surrender of Quanah Parker and the Kwahadi Comanches, ended his days in a nuthouse, in 1889, not long before the massacre at Wounded Knee.

Wikipedi tells us: “He bought a Texas ranch and was engaged to be married; however, he began to demonstrate odd behavior which was attributed to a fall from a wagon at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in which he injured his head. Showing signs of mental instability, he was retired from the Army on March 24, 1884 for “general paresis of the insane”.[5]”

Driving in LA, some reflections on the movie biz:

The studio executives I would go and talk to about one project or another were seldom even half my age.  Now they were only a little more than a third my age.  I was in my sixties, the were in their twenties.  SOme of them seemed puzzled that an older person would still be writing screenplays.  If I happened to mention, by way of illustration, a movie made as long ago as the 1950s – twenty years before any of them were born – they looked blank and, in some cases, a little disdainful.  I might as well have been talking about the Dead Sea scrolls.  There is always a listener (the executive) and a note taker at these meetings.  If I mentioned Touch of Evil or Roman Holiday the note taker would dutifully take a note.

I don’t know why this age gap surprised me.  Hollywood, as I said, has always been about beauty and desire, neither of which is entirely comfortable with age.  Garbo was not wrong to retire.

Near Acoma, New Mexico:

Coronado came past these pueblos as he sought the cities of gold, which means that the Indians of this region have experienced an unusually long colonial oppresion.  Acoma, the sky city built on top of a 365-foot bluff, revolted in 1599 and killed a party of tax collectors sent by Governor Juan de Onate, who proved to be a revengeful man.  He overwhelmed the Acomas, took several hundred prisoners, and cut one foot off any male over twenty years old, probably raking in a lot of seventeen- and eighteen-year old feet in the process…

I’ve been to Acoma many times, where the concessionaires are – to put it mildly – not friendly; and I’ve visited, at one time or another, most of the pueblos near Albuquerque.  I’m not comfortable there and am even less comfortable in the communities north of Santa Fe.  These are all places where the troubles are old and the troubles are deep.  The plains below the Sangre de Christo may be supremely attractive visually, as they were to Miss O’Keefe, but socially they are very uncomfortable – the result of that long oppression.  North of Santa Fe is where the toughest of the Indians and of the Spaniards survived.  It’s not a good place to have a car break down – not if you’re an Anglo.


Another thing I remembered about Larry McMurtry

during the Q&A after the “Brokeback Mountain” screening, someone mentioned that the movie risked being labelled “the gay cowboy movie.” McMurtry, with a tone of baffled wonderment at the world’s foolishness, said “they’re not cowboys!  They’re itinerant ranch hands!”


Larry McMurtry, Walter Benjamin At The Dairy Queen

I hate having to say the title of this book when I recommend it.  But it is a good read.  Larry McMurtry says he was drinking a lime Dr. Pepper (“easily obtainable by anyone willing to buy a lime and a Dr. Pepper”) and reading Walter Benjamin’s essay “The Storyteller,” and then he decided to write this book to work out his subsequent thoughts.

The subtitle is “Reflections At Sixty And Beyond.”  It is sort of about the idea of storytelling and oral history, but mostly it seems to be McMurty’s meandering but fascinating musings and memories centered around this fact:

[I] am one of the few writers who can still claim to have had prolonged and intimate contact with first-generation American pioneers, men and women who came to a nearly absolute emptiness and began the filling of it themselves

Here is a good part:

In a tent (later a shack) not far south of our ranch house, in post oak scrub near the West Fork of the Trinity River, lived a woman who had (reportedly) been traded for a whole winter’s catch of skunk hides, the exchange occurring when she was about thirteen.  The man who had her (by what right I don’t know) stopped to spend the night in the camp of a skunk trapper, who immediately took a fancy to the girl – such a fancy, indeed, that he offered his winter’s catch for her.  The traveler took the hides and left the girl, who lived to bear the trapper many children; she stayed down near West Fork for the rest of her life.  When, as an old woman, she would occasionally need to go to town for some reason, she simply walked out to the nearest dirt road and stood, in silence, until some passerby picked her up and took her where she was going.  This passerby was often my father, though sometimes it was the school but I rode in.  I rode to town with the old woman – once worth more than fifty skunk hides- many times but I never heard her speak a single word.

I saw McMurtry speak once at a screening of “Brokeback Mountain,” which he co-wrote.  Someone asked him his writing process.  He said that he wakes up in the morning and goes to the typewriter and writes three pages.  As soon as he gets to the bottom of page three, even if he’s in the middle of a sentence, he stops.  Usually, he said, he’s done by about 8am, and then he spends the day doing whatever – I remember him mentioning he might take a walk in the desert.  He also said that found it very important to work every single day, and that the build-up of “momentum” was essential to finishing a book.

Anyway, this walk-in-the-desert lifestyle appealed to me.  In another book (Film Flam) McMurtry says he only writes for two hours a day, and suggests that the idea of writers struggling really hard with their work may be a misguided one.


Herds

Long ago, when I was a young cowboy, I witnessed a herd reaction in a real herd – about one hundred cattle that some cowboys and I were moving from one pasture to another along a small asphalt farm-to-market road.  It was mid-afternoon in mid-summer.  Men, horses, and cattle were all drowsy, the herd just barely plodding along, until one cow happened to drag her hoof on the rough asphalt, making a loud rasping sound.  In an instant that sleepy herd was in full flight, and our horses too.  A single sound on a summer afternoon produced a short but violent stampede.  The cattle and horses ran full-out for perhaps one hundred yards.  It was the only stampede I was ever in, and a dragging hoof caused it.

from:

by frequent Helytimes subject Larry McMurtry.  You had me at “Long ago, when I was a young cowboy.”

Oh What A Slaughter isn’t a fun book exactly, but it’s about the most friendly and conversational book you could probably find about massacres.  The style of McMurtry’s non-fiction is so casual, you could argue it’s lazy or bad,

As I have several times said, massacres will out, and this one did in spades.

he says on page 80, for instance.  I suspect it takes work or great practice to sound this relaxed.  The book reads like the story of an old friend, even humorous at times.  There’s great trust in the reader.

One point McMurtry returns to an ruminates on as a cause or at least precursor to these scenes of frenzied violence is apprehension.  People get spooked.  Why did a heavily armed US Army unit watching over – actually disarming – some detained Indians at Wounded Knee suddenly unleash?

The Ghost Dance might have had some kind of millennial implications, but it was just a dance helped by some poor Indians – and Indians, like the whites themselves, had always danced.

McMurtry says.  Yeah, but it put the 7th Cavalry on edge, and they weren’t disciplined and controlled enough.  The microsociologist Randall Collins, speaking of fights and violence generally, might’ve diagnosed what likely happened next:

 Violence is not so much physical as emotional struggle; whoever achieves emotional domination, can then impose physical domination. That is why most real fights look very nasty; one sides beats up on an opponent at the time they are incapable of resisting. At the extreme, this happens in the big victories of military combat, where the troops on one side become paralyzed in the zone of 200 heartbeats per minute, massacred by victors in the 140 heartbeat range. This kind of asymmetry is especially dangerous, when the dominant side is also in the middle ranges of arousal; at 160 BPM or so, they are acting with only semi-conscious bodily control. Adrenaline is the flight-or-fight hormone; when the opponent signals weakness, shows fear, paralysis, or turns their back, this can turn into what I have called a forward panic, and the French officer Ardant du Picq called “flight to the front.” Here the attackers rush forward towards an unresisting enemy, firing uncontrollably. It has the pattern of hot rush, piling on, and overkill. Most outrageous incidents of police violence against unarmed or unresisting targets are forward panics, now publicized in our era of bullet counts and ubiquitous videos.

 


Proust’s coffee

Although fifteen years later [Marcel Proust] would recall his year as a soldier with total delight, as “a paradise,” at the time he complained bitterly and his mother had to write him consoling, babying letters, telling him to think of the twelve months as twelve chocolate squares.

Imagine the guys in the barracks finding your letters from your mom telling you to think about your year as twelve chocolate squares.

In his short biography of Custer, Larry McMurtry mentions a few other short biographies he judges fine, including with a characteristic lack of false modesty his own biography of Crazy Horse, and this Edmund White biography of Proust.

So, I got it and read it.  Wonderful act of compression.  Thoughtful, succinct, at times funny, human, gentle, this book is a great guide to the man and artist, what his work meant and what he was after.

Thought this was wild:

In 1911 Proust became a subscriber to Théàtrophone, a service that held a telephone receiver up at a concert, which allowed people to stay at home and hear live music on their receivers.

The few hundred pages of Remembrance of Things Past I was supposed to read in college (“Proust, Joyce and Modernism”: a class I chose to take!) were tough going for me.  Proust won’t be hurried.  This guy didn’t even get a job  until he was in his thirties.  This was an unpaid job, as a librarian, and eventually he got fired for being out sick too much.  Proust is not interested in going at anyone’s pace except the languid pace of a man lying in bed, leisurely following the meandering paths of his own memory.

Proust always claimed that he had a bad memory and that, besides, a carefully reconstructed recollection, prompted by photos or shared reminiscences, was invariably colorless, Only an involuntary memory, triggered by a taste or smell or other sensation, could erase the passage of time and restore a past experience in its first, full effulgence.

Proust’s world was pretentious and can seem ridiculous.  Proust himself was a great mimic, reducing people to fits of laughter with his impressions.  He loved collecting anecdotes and gossip, grilling waiters for details (Proust was an extravagant tipper.)  White says that Georg D. Painter’s Marcel Proust: A Biography, the one-volume edition, is

so amusing that it could be used as a source for a stand-up comic.

I’ll be looking into this claim.

How about Proust’s maid, Céleste?

Céleste’s great anxiety was Proust’s morning (or afternoon) coffee.  It had to be ready the moment he rang for it, but the preparation took at least half an hour, since he liked the water to be dripped, drop by drop, through the grounds in order to produce the thickest, strongest possible “essence” of coffee.  Nor could he bear for it to be reheated…

This is after Céleste had been standing up for hours listening to Proust recount gossip he’d collected on “rare midnight sorties,” Proust waiting til midnight to go out because he was so afraid of dust.  Well, White tells us we read Proust because he knows that

only the gnarled knowledge that suffering brings us is of any real use.

Maybe Céleste pondered that while she remade the coffee.

Leaving the house was a challenge for Proust, but near the end of his life he made an outing to see Vermeer’s View of Delft:

On the night before he died Proust dictated a last sentence: “There is a Chinese patience in Vermeer’s craft.”

White tells us.  Man Ray took a picture of Proust right after the author died, you can see it here if you’re so inclined.  I’m told by the Met that Cocteau wrote of the scene:

Those who have seen this profile of calm, of order, of plenitude, will never forget the spectacle of an unbelievable recording device come to a stop, becoming an art object: a masterpiece of repose next to a heap of notebooks where our friend’s genius continues to live on like the wristwatch of a dead soldier.

True despair hours:


Promise and glamour

You’re not gonna get what you were promised.  

An angry making idea.  Maybe one of the most angry-making ideas possible.

I’ve been wondering if anger about the feeling of a broken promise is a major driver in US politics.  We were promised something, and we’re not gonna get it. 

But what, exactly?

The United States is the absolute best as promising.  All of our greatest politicians were great promisers.  Our founding fathers were great promisers.

 

John Lanchester, writing in LRB:

Napoleon said something interesting: that to understand a person, you must understand what the world looked like when he was twenty. I think there’s a lot in that.

[…]

I notice, talking to younger people, people who hit that Napoleonic moment of turning twenty since the crisis, that the idea of capitalism being thought of as morally superior elicits something between an eye roll and a hollow laugh. Their view of capitalism has been formed by austerity, increasing inequality, the impunity and imperviousness of finance and big technology companies, and the widespread spectacle of increasing corporate profits and a rocketing stock market combined with declining real pay and a huge growth in the new phenomenon of in-work poverty. That last is very important. For decades, the basic promise was that if you didn’t work the state would support you, but you would be poor. If you worked, you wouldn’t be. That’s no longer true: most people on benefits are in work too, it’s just that the work doesn’t pay enough to live on. That’s a fundamental breach of what used to be the social contract. So is the fact that the living standards of young people are likely not to be as high as they are for their parents. That idea stings just as much for parents as it does for their children.

But it’s not just politics.  If you live in the USA and you turn on your TV, you are being tempted, teased, and promised.

The illusionary promise.

There’s a connection here, I believe, to the world glamour.  What is glamour?

Etymology

From Scots glamer, from earlier Scots gramarye (magic, enchantment, spell).

The Scottish term may either be from Ancient Greek γραμμάριον (grammáriongram), the weight unit of ingredients used to make magic potions, or an alteration of the English word grammar (any sort of scholarship, especially occult learning).

A connection has also been suggested with Old Norse glámr (poet. “moon,” name of a ghost) and glámsýni (glamour, illusion, literally glam-sight).

A magic spell.  An illusion.

Here is Larry McMurtry talking about glamour, and its lack:

Kids in the midwest only get to see even modest levels of glamour if they happen to be on school trips to one or another of the midwestern cities: K.C., Omaha, St. Louis, the Twin Cities.  In some, clearly, this lack of glamour festers.  Charles Starkweather, in speaking about his motive for killing all those people, had this to say: “I never ate in a high-class restaurant, I never seen the New York Yankees play, I never been to Los Angeles…”

He was teased with something he could never have.  Here is Andrew Sullivan on Sarah Palin:

One of the more amazing episodes in Sarah Palin’s early political life, in fact, bears this out. She popped up in the Anchorage Daily News as “a commercial fisherman from Wasilla” on April 3, 1996. Palin had told her husband she was going to Costco but had sneaked into J.C. Penney in Anchorage to see … one Ivana Trump, who, in the wake of her divorce, was touting her branded perfume. “We want to see Ivana,” Palin told the paper, “because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.

Interested in readers’ takes on glamour and glimmers.

 


Hidden Springs of Crazy Horse-iana

Reread Larry McMurtry’s short life of Crazy Horse.  

Discovered something new: when No Water shot Crazy Horse for running away with his wife Black Buffalo Woman, he borrowed the gun he used from Bad Heart Bull.

This Bad Heart Bull was an uncle of Amos Bad Heart Bull, the ledger artist, who made this drawing of the death of Crazy Horse:

At the time of his death, Amos’ sketchbook was given to his younger sister, Dolly Pretty Cloud. In the 1930s, she was contacted by Helen Blish, a graduate student from the University of Nebraska, who asked to study her brother’s work for her master’s thesis in art. When Pretty Cloud died in 1947, her brother’s ledger book full of drawings was buried with her.

Before they were buried, the drawings were photographed by Blish’s professor, Hartley Burr Alexander, and they’re reprinted in this volume:

Amos Bad Heart Bull was only one of the Ledger Artists.

Much Ledger Art can be seen digitally through the Plains Ledger Art Project at UC San Diego.

Amos Bad Heart Bull’s work is vivid:

A literal translation of the Lakota word čhaŋtéšiče is “he has a bad heart”, but an idiomatic meaning is “he is sad.” Tȟatȟáŋka Čhaŋtéšiče would likely have been understood in the same way “Sad Bull” would be in English. When Lakota names are translated literally into English, they may lose their idiomatic sense.

Crazy Horse, Little Bighorn, these names alone are compelling enough.  Cavalrymen wiped out to the last man on the plains, these stories are interesting, or they have been to me as long as I remember.

This book couldn’t’ve been more what I wanted.  I first discovered it when TV commercials for the miniseries aired.

In my opinion the miniseries is damn good, but the book!  Part of what makes it so compelling is Connell sees how the telling of what happened, the attempt to figure out what happened, is as interesting as what happened itself.  The history of the history is as interesting as the history.

Connell starts his book with the troopers who discovered the stripped and mutilated bodies on the hillside, then takes us on a digressive journey towards how this happened, what happened, and what it all might mean, if anything.

Wikipedia presents this disputed picture of Crazy Horse.  It cannot be him.  He would never.  At Fort Robinson??  A desolate prairie outpost? This was taken in a city.  Etc.  From what we know of Crazy Horse, this is the opposite of what he would do.

But who knows?  Who is it?  Ghosts appear and disappear.

crazy horse

Crazy Horse had a daughter named They Are Afraid of Her.  She died, probably of cholera, McMurtry says, when she was three.

How about the legend of what happened at the Baker Fight:

In the middle of a frantic battle a man sits on the grass and smokes a pipe.

This occurred during what is sometimes called the Arrow Creek Fight, or the Baker Fight.

found that here.

Once spent some time on Google Maps trying to find the site of the Baker fight.

While reading about one of the few white men Crazy Horse trusted, Doctor Valentine McGillycuddy:

I find a reference to a thirteen volume set, Hidden Springs of Custeriana.

The hunt for hidden springs in the long pored-over records of the past.  The ledger photographed, then buried in Nebraska.

more:

 

 


Literary Life

Some real talk from Larry McMurtry

One of these days I’m going to rank all of McMurtry’s non-fiction books.  They’re all chatty and great.  This is the single best one.

Either Film Flam or Hollywood tells what it’s like to be friends with Diane Keaton and her mom.

McMurtry has really meant a lot to me.  Here are some other posts about him:

his book Roads

about the time I heard him talk about Brokeback

Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s Nickname

Sarah Palin and glamour

The Field Of Blackbirds


Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s Nickname

owas

Getting pretty close to having read all of Larry McMurtry’s nonfiction.  LMcM has a rambling, conversational way in these books, I enjoy it.  Here is some previous coverage about his book Hollywood, and his road trip book Roads, and the best one of all imo, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.

Oh What A Slaughter is definitely worth a read.  A good quality of McMurtry and my all time favorite Evan S. Connell is that they really capture the weirdness of history.

IMG_6204

How about this, as McMurtry describes the buildup to the Wounded Knee massacre?:

ghost dance 1 ghost dance 2

Wovoka

Wovoka / Jack Wilson

How can you not like a book that has this in it?willie boy

Sacagawea’s Nickname wasn’t as compelling to me.

Saca

It collects essays McMurtry wrote for the New York Review Of Books: a couple about Lewis & Clark, one about the great one-armed explorer/surveyor/ethnographer/proto-environmentalist John Wesley Powell:

John_Wesley_Powell

But for title alone I was def gonna read it.  Like every American kid I was taught about Sacagawea in school, whose name we were told was pronounced “Sack-a Jew-ee-uh.”

Sacagawea_dollar_obverse

Imagine my shock years later when my friend Leila, who was schooled in Oregon and thus had some cred on the issue, told me her name was pronounced “Sack Ahj Way.”  Well, sure.  How could we know?  Both Lewis and Clark, Clark especially, were crazy spellers, so their clues are confusing.  From Wiki:

Clark used Sahkahgarwea, Sahcahgagwea, Sarcargahwea, and Sahcahgahweah, while Lewis used Sahcahgahwea, Sahcahgarweah, Sahcargarweah, and Sahcahgar Wea.

From McMurtry:

sar car

Anyway let me go ahead and give you a spoiler that Sar car Ja we a’s nickname was Janey.

 


Andrew Sullivan back

Andrew Sullivan

Sobering take!

And so those Democrats who are gleefully predicting a Clinton landslide in November need to both check their complacency and understand that the Trump question really isn’t a cause for partisan Schadenfreude anymore. It’s much more dangerous than that. Those still backing the demagogue of the left, Bernie Sanders, might want to reflect that their critique of Clinton’s experience and expertise — and their facile conflation of that with corruption — is only playing into Trump’s hands. That it will fall to Clinton to temper her party’s ambitions will be uncomfortable to watch, since her willingness to compromise and equivocate is precisely what many Americans find so distrustful. And yet she may soon be all we have left to counter the threat. She needs to grasp the lethality of her foe, moderate the kind of identity politics that unwittingly empowers him, make an unapologetic case that experience and moderation are not vices, address much more directly the anxieties of the white working class—and Democrats must listen.

More to the point, those Republicans desperately trying to use the long-standing rules of their own nominating process to thwart this monster deserve our passionate support, not our disdain. This is not the moment to remind them that they partly brought this on themselves. This is a moment to offer solidarity, especially as the odds are increasingly stacked against them. Ted Cruz and John Kasich face their decisive battle in Indiana on May 3. But they need to fight on, with any tactic at hand, all the way to the bitter end. The Republican delegates who are trying to protect their party from the whims of an outsider demagogue are, at this moment, doing what they ought to be doing to prevent civil and racial unrest, an international conflict, and a constitutional crisis. These GOP elites have every right to deploy whatever rules or procedural roadblocks they can muster, and they should refuse to be intimidated.

And if they fail in Indiana or Cleveland, as they likely will, they need, quite simply, to disown their party’s candidate. They should resist any temptation to loyally back the nominee or to sit this election out. They must take the fight to Trump at every opportunity, unite with Democrats and Independents against him, and be prepared to sacrifice one election in order to save their party and their country.

For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event.

This bit made me think of what Larry McMurtry said about glamour and Charlie Starkweather.

One of the more amazing episodes in Sarah Palin’s early political life, in fact, bears this out. She popped up in the Anchorage Daily News as “a commercial fisherman from Wasilla” on April 3, 1996. Palin had told her husband she was going to Costco but had sneaked into J.C. Penney in Anchorage to see … one Ivana Trump, who, in the wake of her divorce, was touting her branded perfume. “We want to see Ivana,” Palin told the paper, “because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.

HOMER, ALASKA, AUGUST 06 2010: The day after she went fishing on the halibut boat Bear, Sarah Palin helps sort out the fish on the docks in Homer, the world's halibut fishing capital, from where it will be taken to a local fish processing plant (photo Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images).

HOMER, ALASKA, AUGUST 06 2010: The day after she went fishing on the halibut boat Bear, Sarah Palin helps sort out the fish on the docks in Homer, the world’s halibut fishing capital, from where it will be taken to a local fish processing plant (photo Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images).


The Field of Blackbirds

Larry McMurtry in Hollywood: A Third Memoir describes Peter Bogdanovich at the 1972 Oscars:

he sat in his tux looking like a Serbian martyr – the only survivor of the Field of Blackbirds, perhaps.

The Field of Blackbirds refers to the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, which was indeed a bad time for everyone involved.  The Prince of Serbia at the time was Lazar Hrebeljanović.  Here he is with wife Milicia:

The Ottoman Empire, meanwhile, was led by Mulad I:

The Ottomans decided to invade Serbia, and the two armies met on the Field of Blackbirds:

Wikipedia describes the grim scene:

The bulk of both armies were wiped out in the battle.

Both Mulad and Lazar were killed.

The Ottomans conquered Serbia, and Milicia had to send her youngest daughter Olivera to the harem of the new Ottoman Sultan, Mulad’s son, Bayezid I.

Before the battle Prince Lazar issued the “Kosovo Curse”:

Whoever is a Serb and of Serb birth,

And of Serb blood and heritage,

And comes not to the Battle of Kosovo,

May he never have the progeny his heart desires,

Neither son nor daughter!

May nothing grow that his hand sows,

Neither red wine nor white wheat!

And let him be cursed from all ages to all ages!

Today it’s inscribed on a pillar at the battlefield:

Peter Bogdanovich:


In A Narrow Grave

In anticipation of a trip to Texas, I got this one off the shelf.  Neither McMurtry’s best (that would be Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, in which he gives a recipe for lime Dr. Pepper) or his worst (that would be Paradise, where he proves his point that Tahiti is boring), in this fan’s opinion.

McMurtry’s essay on the sexual attitudes of the post-frontier Texas of his youth is pretty interesting:

He also says it wasn’t a big deal in his youth for a young man to have sex with a cow or pig.