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