So there I was, minding my own business, engaging in nothing degenerate, when the shameful truth about the human condition once again reared it’s ugly, engorged, throbbing, purple head.
In fact, I was up to something rather wholesome, American, even! I was reading a book, revisiting an author beloved in my youth – not just any author, but the author of best-selling American westerns and love ballads, many of which have been made into successful motion pictures! I can’t think of a more stand-up occupation other than maybe manning a wall on the Mexican border or shaming some terrified child about their sexual identity. Perhaps a bigoted rant on facebook . . . but I digress.
I was reading Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. I have a bit of history with Larry. For a long time, Lonesome Dove represented to me the pinnacle of story telling. The book is a true modern epic. McMurtry’s genius for drawing characters and engaging the reader is unparalleled. Also, the TV mini-series, featuring such heavyweights as Bob Duvall, Tommy L. Jones. Dianne Lane, Angelica Huston, Danny Glover, Robert Urich and a young Steve Buscemi certainly didn’t hurt the book’s prestige. I read a couple of McMurtry’s other books back then, and dug them alright. None of them were as good as LD and there were limits to how much cowboys & indians shit I could get into, but McMurtry maintained a favored place in my estimation of American writers. It had been 20 years since I read any of his stuff when, a few months ago, I picked up a copy of The Last Picture Show in a local used bookstore.
The Last Picture Show is set in a small Texas town in the early 50s. I was cruising along and enjoying it alright. Larry’s genius for character is on full display. His prose is sort of hokey at times, but, you know, hence the broad appeal. All in all, it was like a pleasant visit with an old friend. Then, about halfway through the book, I was blindsided by an orgy of wanton bestiality more horrifying than anything dreamed up by Bill Burroughs, Henry Miller or even the freaks that wrote the bible. We are talking about teenage boys gangbanging heifers, hogs, puppy dogs, even birds, for christ’s sake! What was more shocking than this deviant revelation itself was how off-handedly Larry dropped it. Apparently fornicating with animals was common practice in his neck of the woods – a rite of adolescence and also a staple of the rural adult’s sexual diet. As proper as going to church on Sunday! As a modest, small town boy, baptized in St. Mary’s Catholic church, living in a county where milk cows outnumber humans 4 to 1, you bet I was dismayed!
It brings me back to a familiar point. As humans we like to consider ourselves, and our place in history, unique. Throughout recorded history, one thing has remained constant: society has been on the verge of collapse! We’ve been one filthy sin away from bringing God’s cruel judgment down on this cesspool we call earth for an uncanny-long time! The entire history of our species can be summed up in one Simpsons’ camper/South Park school bus perpetually teetering on the precipice of doom. And this younger generation? Hooooooleeeeee sheeeeiiiiit! The youth of TODAY are corrupted beyond salvation. They will be the ruination of us all! The mouthpieces of human society have been spouting that self-satisfied line of bullshit for as far back as I’ve been able to read.
So will the proliferation of internet porn be our downfall. The straw that breaks the horse-fucker’s back? Maybe it will be instagram or snapchat. If cell phones at the dinner table have torn the fabric of our society, what about all the lonely, old widows who’ve gained a new lease on life through the miracle of facebook? If corporate America is the great Satan, then why has Amazon enabled me to publish multiple novels glorifying masturbation and crapulence? – I mean, enabled thousands of dedicated independent artists to publish their own work? Why indeed.
Well that’s all fine and good, Ted, I'm sure you’re all saying. But we know you. You’re not one to blow sunshine up our asses without slipping a little cold, hard pessimism into the bargain. Yeah, y’all are right. While I don’t think modern technology is leading us down the hell-bound spiral, I doubt it’s our path to utopia either. There’s a big push to “change the world” nowadays. Empowerment is everything and I’m all for it. The problem is, this brave new world we're creating will be populated by the same scum bags that have been filling it with shit for 200,000 years. I dig the Google-sponsored “change the world” movement. But I’m going to be straight with you dear reader; I dig it mostly because it’s a nice, bright star to hitch my wagon to. My wagon is musty and old. It smells like your grandma’s basement. It is full of books, books I will sell to anyone I can hook – cowboys, change facilitators, and horsefuckers included.
Until next time, friends.