THE INFORMATION #831
APRIL 10, 2015
We feel quite truly that our wisdom begins where that of the author ends, and we would like to have him give us answers, while all he can do is give us desires. But by…a law which perhaps signifies that we can receive the truth from nobody, and that we must create it ourselves, that which is the end of their wisdom appears to us as but the beginning of ours.–Proust
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART THIRTEEN: KINGDOM COME
Seated in the Seven Stars in the depths of mid-winter with snowdrifts forming outside and covering the high windows, a roaring fire inside, the smell of cheap tobacco prevalent throughout, Count Justin Victor turned his attention next on Jack the Painter. “The trouble with you, Jack, the thing about you is that you and that ‘ooman of yourn ain’t got no bairns. Kiddies are a blessing or a curse, but it does a man proud to see a piece of him roaming the world and gives a man incentive to live rather than leaving orphans for a brother’s care. Oh well—I suppose you have found your modus vivendi right enough.”
“I don’t have to stand here and listen to this,” said Jack the Painter.
“Then sit down , ye durn ninny,” said Count Justin Victor; but Jack made his departure.
“Now you see him–now you don’t,” said Count Victor Justin. “In case all of you are interested,” he said, turning to the crowd, which consisted of Musky Jim, Jimmy Ragmop, Adam O’Day and his Pappy, and Tipsy Smith the Barkeep, “Jack is a classic case of neurasthenia. He knows his Latin; oh! And I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew a little Greek into the bargain, and maybe even some Hebrew, and I’m not talking about the beer they serve here. You might conclude from his demeanor that Jack is every kind of fool; but you’d be wrong. You can trust me—I’ve traveled this great world over, and I’ve heard the Hooty Owl, I have. Jack was once a man of great promise. I knew his Paw. He was a washed up Calvary officer in the Confederate Army; he only birthed Jack late in life, when all his little glory had long ago faded. So—what makes Jack so sad? I think it was his Paw, having had him late in life, never much had the strength and energy to share with the boy his love of manly pursuits. He was more like the grandfather than the father. Then again, I knew him, and he was an irascible cuss. Always blamed everyone else for his station in life. Couldn’t get over the fact that the South had lost. You know how some of these Southern gentlemen treat the Negro with excessive grace? Jack’s father was not one of those. He would snarl at them every which way he could; expect them to wait on him hand and foot and, worst of all, he wouldn’t even tip ‘em.
“Anyway, like I said, I knew the father, and the acorn never did fall far from the tree. Only, instead of raging and roaring at the world, Jack more of less keeps to hisself. Oh, there was a time—and it wasn’t that long ago—that Jack was a gay young dog, easily excited by drink, always willing to bet the farm—a real proposition player, willing to wager on a raindrop falling down a window-glass. He got in with a bad crowd for a spell—we all have, I’ll admit—but he had the good sense to cut ‘em loose when a little bird whispered in his earie. So how did he go from being the Young Man With A Lot On The Ball to being a handyman in a dive like this one? I’ll tell you straight—I’ll warrent he believes he doesn’t deserve any better. It’s like he’s doing penance for some great sin he committed in the past. The Seven Stars is his Calvary.
“I’ll be beggared if he wasn’t a majordomo in the Masons at some time or another. Jack the Clown, always playing the fool. Always in his altitudes; always first in line to whack the new initiates with a paddle, or play some sort of stunt with an electrified rug. People in blindfolds and kneeling, being whacked and prodded by rods. Bad slang. Faked-up branding irons. Riding the goat tricycle. Like that. O, I know all their tricks! Jack was a real Hail Fellow Well Met; the Heartiest of the Heart Men; a Stout Fellow. Note how thin and ragged he looked just now. Comes of never eating. He’s so sad the food is ashes in his mouth. Show me a fat man and I’ll show you a man who is too earthy to be a Nervous Nellie. Nowadays, it’s always the skinny wretches who’ve got the drooping melancholia. Note, too, how he is never seen taking a drink, though you can bet that working in a bar, he gets plenty. Not that bad whiskey, either, with a plug of ‘baccy soaking in it. No; no insipid brew for him; only the purest corn liquor passes those lips; you can bet the bank on it, and no whistle.
“Because Jack was once upon a time used to a much softer life. He was a master locksmith. A regular Jimmy Valentine, only on the sunny side of the law. Banks would pay his fare to go to cities far and wide to test their locks, and provide them with security measures. He could talk like an apothecary to all the bankside ladies—and he did. Maybe that’s why he never had kiddies; he was always on the road, and too busy with the Dashers to pay attention to his first wife. Maybe that’s why when she took sick, it hit him so hard. He was a changed man, then, as if to make an extra effort could make up for all his earlier neglect. He was at her bedside at every hour, except when he was outside chopping wood to feed the stove so she wouldn’t catch cold and get any sicker. I’m sure he felt the whole time like he was dying inside and nobody understood. Well, finally, the inevitable happened, as it happens to us all, and he buried her. After she passed away, he lost all joy in life. Quit his job, quit the Masons, moved out of his house, took a room over the bar, and spends his time here. Where are his jokes, his japes, his hoaxes and his capers? He let his hair grow long and he ties it up in back like a pirate. Makes him look like he’s wearing a periwig; only it’s all his own hair.
“You ever see an ox that’s been poleaxed? It stands there with glassy eyes just before it keels over for good. I see that look sometimes in Jack the Painter. He’s been through hell, sure. Maybe that’s why he don’t want the prayers of nobody. He feels like he’s a lost soul. He has no joy in his life. He’s lost his soul. He’s got himself another wife—the Lord knows how—he hardly ever leaves The Seven Stars—but she doesn’t seem to be doing much good, not that I have ever had the pleasure of having made her acquaintance. But I’m sure she’s no roaring gal. Having a kiddie would be the best thing that could happen to him; but I suppose some men are destined to pass from this earth and leave nothing behind them—and Jack the Painter is one of them.”
HOW VAN MORRISON WROTE ASTRAL WEEKS
IN FULL: Lewis Merenstein, producer of Astral Weeks
Charles Bukowski’s Letter to the Librarian Who Banned His Book
THE HOLLOW: THE INBRED HILLBILLY HAMLET WHERE EVERYONE’S RELATED
EVERY NOISE AT ONCE
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
I AM NOT AN ATOMIC PLAYBOY!
6* DAILY UTILITY
22 CHARMING WORDS FOR NASTY PEOPLE
The Secret Satanic Messages in Disney Cartoons and Hollywood
LIST OF SENIOR DISCOUNTS
32 LEGITIMATE WAYS TO MAKE MONEY AT HOME
BEACH BOYS RARITIES
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
*11A BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED
BEST RUSSIAN SHORT STORIES. SELTZER. ****1/2
CONFESSIONS OF A SOCIOPATH. THOMAS. ***1/2
DISPLACEMENT: A TRAVELOGUE. KNISLEY. ****1/2
FATHERLAND: A FAMILY HISTORY. BUNJEVAC. ****
GAME CHANGE. HEILEMANN & HALPERIN. ****
HAPPINESS IN CRIME. D’AUREVILLY. ***1/2
THE MALACCA CANE. VIGNY. ***1/2
THE OLD MAID. BALZAC. ****
RAMEAU’S NEPHEW. DIDEROT. ****1/2
GREAT RUSSIAN SHORT STORIES. GRAHAM. ****1/2
RUN LIKE CRAZY, RUN LIKE HELL. TARDI & MANCHETTE. ****1/2
RUSSIAN SHORT STORIES FROM PUSHKIN TO BUIDA. CHANDLER. ****1/2
THE SCULPTOR. MCCLOUD. ****
STORMWATCH 1. **1/2
SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE. 3. ***1/2
TREASURY OF MINI COMICS VOL. 2. DOWERS. ***1/2
VANINA VANINI. STENDHAL. ***1/2
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
790. GREAT LOST ALBUMS