I got the displaced person blues

What are you watching, reading, and listening to these days? Here’s mine for the week. Apparently I have the blues of some kind or other, what do you know about that.

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Watching:
Peter Gunn,
a jazz-powered, noir, private eye TV show from the late 50’s.

I’m only watching with half an eyeball, if that, but every time I do look up, the framing of every single shot is gor-ge-ous. Worth watching just for that. All the flossy mists, lurid lips, hard streets, velvet shadows, sinister dimples, lonely lampposts, glossy fenders, and echoing gunshots your noirish little heart desires; and you certainly don’t care about any of the characters, so there’s no emotional cost. Although I kind of like Mother.

Also, this show is where this music comes from (by Henry Mancini):

Now you know something! Peter Gunn is now streaming on Amazon.

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Reading:
“The Displaced Person” by Flannery O’Connor.

I came across this long short story in an anthology (originally part of the collection A Good Man Is Hard To Find, 1955) and I’m scratching my head over why this story is not getting more play right now among Catholics who welcome refugees. It’s just as well, because, despite the obvious parallels to current concerns, literal refugees is not really what the story is about. (The Paris Review notes that O’Connor herself was highly allergic to “topical” stories.)

Fleeing Hitler’s onslaught and ending up in a rural Southern dairy farm, the displaced Polish family are not only foreign, but their foreignness threatens the right order of things — even though the familiar order wasn’t satisfactory.

This passage is killer: Mrs. McIntyre, the self-righteous wife of a barely adequate but firmly established tenant farmer, waits for the displaced persons to arrive and recalls seeing a newsreel showing

a small room piled high with bodies of dead naked people all in a heap, their arms and legs tangled together, a head thrust in here, a head there, a foot, a knee, a part that should have been covered up sticking out, a hand raised clutching nothing.

She wonders whether anyone coming from such disorderly barbarity can even be fully human — and never mind that the Guizacs were the victims, not the aggressors:

Watching from her vantage point, Mrs. Shortley had the sudden intuition that the Gobblehooks [her best guess at how to pronounce “Guizacs”], like rats with typhoid fleas, could have carried all those murderous ways over the water with them directly to this place. If they had come from where that kind of thing was done to them, who was to say they were not the kind that would also do it to others? The width and breadth of this question nearly shook her. Her stomach trembled as if there had been a slight quake in the heart of the mountain and automatically she moved down from her elevation and went forward to be introduced to them, as if she meant to find out at once what they were capable of.

That’s the question. What might these displaced people be capable of? Mrs. McIntyre ends up being displaced herself, fully engaged in a cataclysmic body heap of her own, as she flees the farm in outrage; and the Guizacs become a door for upheaval of everyone’s idea of order, ushering in terrifying change.

O’Connor is a hair heavy handed with the Christ imagery — Christ as Displaced Person, but also as the ultimate displacer of persons — but it’s still a fascinating read with many threads.I don’t know why this story doesn’t get anthologized more.

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Listening to:

Chris Thomas King. We showed O Brother, Where Art Thou to the kids the other day, and they ate it up. So good. Here’s one of the quieter numbers, “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” with some heartbreaking guitar

Here’s King’s “Come on in my kitchen” from The Red Mud Sessions album.

Hey, anyone can shout into a can for ten bucks. Great singers can put it across quietly. In a different vein, here’s “Death Letter Blues”

I guess I have a soft spot in my heart for someone who’s always complaining. I got the displaced person’s blues.

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Flannery O’Connor photo by Will via Flickr (Creative Commons)

6 thoughts on “I got the displaced person blues”

  1. Reading “You Know When the Men Are Gone” by Siobhan Fallon. About war and army bases. It’s been on my list for awhile and I found it at our big used book sale last week.

    (Re) Watching Battlestar Galactica on Hulu

    Listening my running playlist. Training for a 15 k in two weeks

  2. Let’s see . . . I’m in the mood for light entertainment lately, so I’m reading lots of graphic novels from the children’s section of the library.

    Just finished Every Hidden Thing, by Kenneth Oppel. My 17-year-old said she thought it was the most realistic depiction of a teen relationship she had ever read (she gets impatient with romantic subplots) and I may have to agree. Oppel is an excellent writer, but this book has a few (marital) sex scenes in it, and a parent should read it first–might be OK for an older teen. I won’t be recommending it to my 15-year-old. Oppel’s recent semi-horror called The Nest is fantastic and I would unhesitatingly recommend it for 12 and up. Whether he intended it or not, it has a powerful pro-life message.

    Also reading The Fellowship of the Ring aloud to 11-year-old. That’s good for anything that ails you! We’ve just gotten to Moria.

    Watching Strictly Ballroom, one of my favorite movies, as I fold clothes.

    Still listening to my new Christmas CD. I’m picky about Christmas music, and to my surprise Annie Lennox made an excellent album a few years ago called A Christmas Cornucopia (Annie Lennox from the Eurythmics? Yes, that Annie Lennox). She sings all kinds of beautiful carols completely straight, and doesn’t cut out the more “religious” verses like some singers do when they make a Christmas album. I don’t think I had ever heard “See Amid the Winter Snow” before, but I listened to it over and over this Christmas.

    Sacred infant, all divine
    What a tender love was thine
    Thus to come from highest bliss
    Down to such a world as this!

    That’s REALLY good for what ails you.

    1. I l-o-v-e Strictly Ballroom and watched it this week too!

      Also watched The Butterfly Circus (on its own site) and Validation (YouTube), both short films. The former is excellent, the latter mostly just fun, but it does always make me grin.

      For reading, just finished Auntie Mame. Funny, sometimes too over the top, really a lot like the author’s life: some normal mixed with lots of bizarre. Also, I just made the third friend in a row read A Song for Nagasaki. It’s so good, I keep passing it on to new people and insisting they read it; it helps that whichever friend read it last and is returning it backs me up. So that’s my recommendation to everyone ever!

      Listening to: Sandra Boynton whenever I’m in the car with kids (and whatever random records the twins insist on at home). Dog Train is really pretty good and I’ve been known to listen even with no kids in the car… but my listening life is clearly nothing to write home about right now.

  3. O Brother, Where Art Thou is one of my all-time favorites – one of those I will come across on TV and, whatever point it’s at, will sit and watch till the end. The script, the music, the humor, the sense of destiny/God at work at the end, not just at the cabin but at the rally!…*sigh*
    Ahem. Anyway…
    Watching: Star vs. The Forces of Evil, The Amazing World of Gumball, Bob’s Burgers
    Reading: Love’s Labor’s Lost
    Listening to: ApologetiX

  4. In college l read a lot of Flannery O’Connor (including the one mentioned above). I remember once writing a paper on her influence on Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska album, but truth be told, I never connected with any of her stories. I wonder if I read them now as a middle aged person , I might feel differently.

    Have nothing worth mentioning here except that sometimes I catch reruns of The Middle on the Hallmark Channel, and invariably something will make me laugh out loud. The way the family talks to and about each other and the situations they find themselves in all ring a little too close to home. My husband jokes that the writers have a hidden camera in our house.

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