The Way of All Flesh is a really sharp social history of the author's age in 3 generations of one family. It's brisk and farcical throughout but on thThe Way of All Flesh is a really sharp social history of the author's age in 3 generations of one family. It's brisk and farcical throughout but on the way Butler constructs some really painful confrontations between father and son, whose lasting damage and psychological realism puts forward a very depressing general account of family life and the bourgeois pressures of keeping the family's "station" stable across generations. Butler attacks a great deal through the learned voice of the protagonist's kindly, bachelor uncle, but generally these targets all represent forms of Victorian moral hypocrisy and of, alternatively, downright cynicism and corruption of the pampered educated elites, especially within the clergy....more
Worth the hype etc. etc. etc. many people have consistently said for six generations now why now it's time for you to hunker down and read the damn thWorth the hype etc. etc. etc. many people have consistently said for six generations now why now it's time for you to hunker down and read the damn thing. It's a healthy dose of literary greens and the historical highpoint of prose realism, probably of literary prose period; and written at a time in which writers like Eliot faced society in all it's clumsy, runaway hugeness....more
I really really liked this book. Not only was it colorful and witty, but it was heartwarming and, at time, melancholy, too. The narrator is a likeableI really really liked this book. Not only was it colorful and witty, but it was heartwarming and, at time, melancholy, too. The narrator is a likeable young married man whose central American adventure begins with this unforgottable opening paragraph:
My wife Norma had run off with Guy Dupree and I was waiting around for the credit card billings to come in so I could see where they had gone. I was biding my time. This was October. They had taken my car and my Texaco card and my American Express card. Dupree had also take from the bedroom closet my good raincoat and a shotgun and perhaps some other articles. It was just like him to pick the .410 - a boy's first gun. I suppose he thought it wouldn't kick much, that it would kill or at least rip the flesh in a satisfying way without making a lot of noise or giving much of a jolt to his sloping monkey shoulder.
Ray Midge's personality is supremely rational, and his character serves as a straight man for the many unbalanced friends he makes on his road trip to find his wife - most notably the "Doctor" Reo Symes and his ancient, devoutly Christian mother, Mrs. Symes, whom he meets on the way through Mexico and British Hondouras, successively. He is not merely a spock-like walking encyclopedia, however - he is fundamentally sincere, trusting, good-natured and philisophical. Midge never once pities himself, even though he feels at one point or another all the normal human emotions of frustration, discomfort, love, lust and anger.
The novel begins with Midge tracing the eloped couple's whereabouts, and ends with Norma finally revealing the events behind those billings. Between these ends is a far fetched aventure, with characters as strong and memorable as Joseph Heller's, and a snappy, dry, distinctly Southern-eccentric sense of humour in the tradition of Mark Twain. It's very funny indeed.
Some quotes from my folded down pages:
I was starting off for Mexico in [Dupree's] junker without so much as a new fan belt. There were health bar wrappers, at least forty of them, all over the floor and seats and I hadn't even bothered to clean them out. It wasn't my car and I despised it. I had done some thinking too. The shock of clean oil or the stiffer tension of a new belt might have been just enough to upset the fragile equilibrium of the system. And I had worked it out that the high mileage was not really a disadvantage, reasoning in this specious way: that a man who has made it to the age of seventy-four has a very good chance of making it to seventy-six- a better chance, in fact, than a young man would have. [p.19]
-- "His mouth was bleeding from scurvy, from mucosal lesions and suppurating ulcers, his gums gone all spongy. He was a broken man all right but by God the work got done. He wrecked his health of that we might have Wings as Eagles."
The Doctor went on and on. He said that all other writing, compared to Dix's work, was just "foul grunting," I could understand how a man might say such things about the Bible or Koran, some holy book, but this Dix book, from what I could see of it , was nothing more than an inspirational work for salesmen. Still, I didn't want to judge it too quickly. There might be some useful tips in those pages, some Dix thoughts that would throw a new light on things, I was still on the alert for chance messages. [p.66]
-- Melba brought me her stories. They were in airmail tablets, written in a round script on bot hsides of the thin paper. One was about a red-haired beauty from New Orleans who went to New York and got a job as a secretary on the second floor of the Empire State Building. There were mysterious petty thefts in the office and the red-haired girl solved the mystery with her psychic powers. The thief turned out to be the boss himself and the girl lost her job and went back to New Orleans where she got another job that she liked better, although it didn't pay as well.
Melba had broken the transition problem wide open by starting almost every paragraph with "Moreover." She freely used "the former" and "the latter" and every time I ran into one of them I had to backtrack to see whom she was talking about. She was also fond of "inasmuch" and "crestfallen."
I read another story, an unfinished shocker about a father-and-son rape team who prowled the Laundromats of New Orleans. The leading character was a widow, a mature red-haired woman with nice skin. She had visions of the particular alleys and parts where the rapes were to occur but the police detectives wouldn't listen to her. "Bunk!" they said. She called them "the local gendarmes," and they in turn called all the girls "tomatoes." [p. 130]