I am sitting here at my desk being too busy to breathe, and I am forcing myself to stop working long enough to tell you all about the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.
And that amazing thing is my yuletide 2006 pinch-hit assignment, which was for Pat Conroy's Lords of Discipline. Which I signed up for having never read before, little knowing that Lords of Discipline would forever gain a place in my heart as the worst book I have ever read. Oh my god it was the most amazingly amazingly epically bad thing in my whole entire life.
I just went over to amazon to search inside the book for some of my favorite lines, which I still remember 2 years later because this book is that amazing. And now, may I present: Excerpts from the Best Book Ever.
- Outside the barracks windows, the leaves when wind-blown crackled like thousands of errant wasps colliding in midair.
It was the sound of the lion and the train that I missed the most.
I wondered how many boys had broken under the fearful pressures of the plebe system. I wondered if the grotesque phantoms of their damaged spirits haunted the alcoves of the barracks for all times, recruiting others into their defiled tormented ranks with howls of gratitude as they watched the others come apart at the soul. The ague of suffering raged unchecked in the eyes of the recruit. Behind Poteete's eyes, the hive of terror was loose on him and each cell in his brain had become wasp-winged and deadly, each cell was hourglass-shaped, and each cell, tremulous with the diminutive thunder of hornets, felt the power of flight and the invulnerability of the swarm.
"Remember this, too, Will," Abigail said. "You need Tradd more than he needs you. Tradd can help you now. He can help you in your life. He can use his name and his friends to get you ahead no matter what you do."
"I wouldn't let him unzip my fly."
I was a basketball player, I told myself, a running, jiving, fast-talking, quick-handed guard, and I had taken to the courts when I was nine years old and had never stopped running, never stopped shooting, never stopped developing those leg muscles that would carry me away from them.... Bleeding was a sign of honor among athletes and I had left my blood and my sweat on a dozen courts around the South and would have loved to leave them on a hundred more. ...
That was the gift and hunger I brought to my game. I did not have the talent to match the hunger, but, by God, I had the speed.
All of us were holding on to Pig, protecting him; by touching Pig, we were touching each other, felt the connection of our time together, the depth and awful brevity of our common history, and the dazzling intensity of our friendship. We had gathered in an indissoluble band around our endangered friend, and we touched him because it was the only form of speech or communication available. A transcendent feeling of superhuman, perfect solidarity with my friends overwhelmed me at that moment. I was dizzy with love and dread. I was connected to the heartbeats and pulses of my roommates by a benign, vital symbiosis, and I felt that I depended on them for blood and oxygen, and if one of them had abandoned the rest of us at that very instant, my spirit and my body could not have absorbed such trauma, such loss.
The hiss of the spray sounded like a colloquy of snakes in the parched summer grass. The first mosquito bit into my thigh. Clouds of gnats and mosquitoes began to swarm before my eyes. I counted eight mosquitoes on the neck of the boy in front of me. Our coming had stirred an invisible empire of insects, and we had come as food for that empire. Soon I felt the insects biting me in a dozen places. It seemed as though the entire motionless platoon disappeared beneath an awful living drapery of tiny wings and feathery black legs. Around me, I began to hear the moans of freshmen about to break from the ordeal by insect. The mosquitoes fed deeply and leisurely, as though they had come upon a freshly slaughtered battalion with the blood still warm and fragrant in the quiet veins.
... Now we were ludicrous, like actors in blackface.
(further down the page)
...As I entered, I heard a radio somewhere in the barracks loudly playing "I Want To Hold Your Hand." I would never hear that song again without feeling the urgent movement of plebes being driven into that dark cell of heat and violence. I would never be able to appreciate the music of the Beatles, never be able to define my coming of age through their joyous lyrics, because of that one radio playing that one song... The Beatles died for me at that very moment.
My friends, my friends. The whole book is like this.
Not only is the whole book like this,
It's a "fictionalized account based on true events" of pat conroy's time in the Citadel. Yes, that Citadel. In this fictionalized account, I shit you not, Pat Conroy's avatar does each of the following things:
- singlehandedly ends a centuries-old institutionalized system of racist hazing!
- singlehandedly wins the collegiate basketball championship with the winning shot at the buzzer, despite being nearly thrown off the team because all the authority figures hate his snotty attitude, which apparently is GREAT AND REBELLIOUS despite the fact that he
- still manages to be the star player
- and make straight As
- and get elected to the school's honor court;
- gets the girl!!! and then tragically loses the girl!!!
- singlehandedly keeps his friend from getting tragically expelled from the school, by getting called as a witness and exuding wit and warmth and snarky logic that defy the prosecution's case!
and last but certainly not least, he
- singlehandedly brings to justice his awkward, rich, classist socialite best friend and roommate, whose family are the evil masterminds behind the racist hazing, and who ALSO happens to be
- IN LOVE WITH OUR HERO:
"Please, Will," Tradd said, close to tears. "Please. I deserve one more chance. Please don't leave me like this. We love each other. You know we do, Will. Tell me you don't love me. Yes, tell me that. Tell me you don't love me, Will."
"I can't tell you that, Tradd," I said. And I left the St. Croix mansion forever.
Pat Conroy, my friends. Ahh, ahh, I feel like I've been reunited with my true love.