Tag Archives: Rainbow Pie

Red Neck Noir

26 May

No doubt writer Daniel Woodrell had a following before his fine novel, Winter’s Bone was made into an Oscar nominated motion picture (doesn’t that rubric seem archaic?) However, for the unannointed Woodrell’s The Bayou Trilogy (Mulholland Books) has just been reissued in one handy volume containing three of his early novels Under the Bright Lights, Muscle for the Wing and The Ones You Do.

Whether saddling Woodrell as the creator of “red neck noir” plays to his advantage is beyond my reckoning. Of course I am not sure being affiliated with red necks has aided anyone (you can read Joe Bageant’s Rainbow Pie, A Redneck memoir to ascertain this) but I am certain of a couple of things. Woodrell can write and Woodrell knows a thing or two. For instance here is a quick take on the 1927 flood

…When the big river calmed and the swamp settled back to level, families that had known no life but the swampy decided that the allure of wild rice ranching and nutria trapping was overshadowed by the grand tales they’d swallowed of city life, a place where sugar-cured hams were free so long as a you bought a potato, pigeons were fat and sleek and tasted like shrimp, cash was doled out twice month and there was an endless supply of liquid cheer and hoochy-koochy bonhomie. The flood pushed these folks from the remote life of the swamp and into the bullshit embrace of the bluff winking city.

Others have commented gushingly on Woodrell’s writing so I will spare you the paean —let me just say that you can pretty much flip open his books to any page and have a very good chance of encountering an outstanding example of his craft and sly sense of humor. As in the following, where John X Shade explains to Lunch Pumphrey what happened to the money that was stolen from him

See, I took the advice of the pigskin experts, Lunch, and I put fifteen K down on them wily ‘Bama boys.Saturday last, they lined up against a team from Florida whose star quarterback and favorite wide receiver had just been carted off to jail on rape charges. That ought be an edge, right? Short of a fuckin’ jailbreak that game had to be a lock for the Crimson Tide. But as you might know, late in the fourth quarter their star running back, the one that beat the burglary rap back in the spring, coughed it up inside the Florida ten-yard line, and that Florida linebacker who’d just come off suspension from that summertime assault beef the papers were full of, jumped on the ball and kept ‘Bama from coverin’ the spread.

Long time fans will be pleased to learn that Woodrell has a collection of stories coming out this fall. New converts have a treasure trove of a back list to root through.

Class Warfare: Tales of a White Underclass

14 Apr

I can’t for the life of me understand why no American publisher had the intelligence to publish Joe Bageant’s Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir(Scribe) thus leaving Australia’s Scribe Publications to show some great good sense. One clue to how this came to pass may be contained in the author’s introduction explaining (among other things) why he chose to write a memoir:

…I’d be willing to bet that my generation—the baby boomers—has produced more damn memoirs than all others combined. Angry memoirs weeping over some metaphorical pony the author did not get for Christmas in 1958, left a sour wad in the gullet of serious readers…

…I am advised by some editors that he word ‘memoir”, like the word “essay”,can be the kiss of death in today’s suffering book market. But this book was published first in Australia, where i have with my very own eyes seen real customers in book stores, there to purchase a book, not a talking greeting card or a Shakespeare coffee mug to prove they have been in a bookstore. So I nurse a shred of optimism

Or could it be Bageant’s very acute assessment of the American polity left our native publishers skittish?

Everyday it gets a little harder not to notice some fifty or sixty million people scratching around for any kind of job, or working more hours that ever in a sweating white knuckled effort to hang onto the jobs they do have. With credit cards melting down and middle class jobs evaporating, there is the distinct possibility of them slipping into the classes below them.And who are they anyway—those people wiping put the ramen noodle shelf at the supermarket, and looking rather surly as they are moved out of their repossessed house?

Bageant’s assessment includes the very tabooed notion of America as society riven by class— an idea that runs counter to a deeply engrained mythology of ours as a classless society. It is such an obvious feature of American society but not many observers and commentators of the American civilization are unabashed about featuring a class analysis—Howard Zinn was one, as it puts a damper on the glorious fairy tale of American exceptionalism.

Sadly, Joe Bageant passed away recently leaving a dwindling population of sharp eyed and fiercely outspoken critics of late capitalism America. He did leave a large body of work freely available at his website which I heartily recommend you visit. Especially as an antidote to the equine vernacular being freely dispensed hither and dither.

The memoir is a bittersweet look at a slice of society (rural white working Americans) which very few Americans understand or even recognize. Good for Joe Bageant for writing about it with such care.

I should not leave unsaid that Matt Taibbi is doing his fair share of iconoclasty
A recent post at his weblog succinctly addresses the current economic quagmire:

It’s bad enough that middle-class taxpayers have been forced in the last few years to subsidize the vacations and beach houses of the idiots who caused the financial crisis, and it’s doubly insulting that they’re now being blamed for the budget mess.

And he disperses some blame in the right places

It is obvious that we have a debt problem in this country and that something needs to be done about it. But a huge part of the blame for the confusion and the national angst over our budget issues has to be laid at the feet of media assholes .., who continually misrepresent what is actually happening with national spending

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RIP Joe Bageant

28 Mar

The media shitstream was so engorged last week (who really cares about the passing of a mediocre actress?) that I missed a really important piece of news—the passing of (self-styled ) redneck commentator Joe Bageant (Deer Hunting with Jesus,, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir ):

Q: How do you know if you are rich, middle class or poor in America?

A: When you go to work, if your name is on the building — you’re rich; if your name is on an office door — you’re middle class; if your name is on your shirt — you’re poor…and, if someone else’s name is on your hand-me-down work shirt.

Here’s a few moments of Joe

It’s well worth looking at one of Bageant’s last essays,America, Your Peeps are So Dumb? Ignorance and courage in the age of Lady Gaga:

If you hang out much with thinking people, conversation eventually turns to the serious political and cultural questions of our times. Such as: How can the Americans remain so consistently brain-fucked? Much of the world, including plenty of Americans, asks that question as they watch U.S. culture go down like a thrashing mastodon giving itself up to some Pleistocene tar pit.

One explanation might be the effect of 40 years of deep fried industrial chicken pulp, and 44 ounce Big Gulp soft drinks. Another might be pop culture, which is not culture at all of course, but marketing. Or we could blame it on digital autism: Ever watch commuter monkeys on the subway poking at digital devices, stroking the touch screen for hours on end? That wrinkled Neolithic brows above the squinting red eyes?

But a more reasonable explanation is that, (A) we don’t even know we are doing it, and (B) we cling to institutions dedicated to making sure we never find out.

To quote Joe, “We don’t last, and there’s no warranty.” So it goes.

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