It’s not a long book: Willie never tells you more than you need to know. But it’s a fun and twisted little Christmas yarn, how to get the hell out of Hades and rebirth humanity in Phoenix, where it belongs.
Here’s the promotional copy from Amazon.com:
Poetry is leadership.
Leadership is love.
Love is family.
Family is hope.
And hope is poetry.
So says itinerant raconteur Willie O’Connell – though he’s now more of a settled man. Make that an unsettled man…
I drove downtown, but that’s been dead forever, killed by a city council that would not yield to reality: Huge parcels of unincorporated land just outside of town. And so I drove that new ‘downtown,’ too – immense power centers surrounded by vast rolling parking lots.
There used to be a city here, a thriving one. Now there’s a rotting core surrounded by wood-framed tract homes loosely connected by commercial corridors – just like every other big-little-shithole in the midwest.
And there’s everything else in Hades, too, of course, everything nobody ever wants to talk about. The out of control corpulence I decry in Phoenix got its start here, one corn chip, one can of carbonated corn syrup at a time. Alcoholism is the scourge I remember growing up, but that seems like a kiddie vice, by now, in a town littered with discarded syringes. There’s an Indian casino, of course. It’s called “Chief Illini’s Vengeance.” And everywhere there are people who are going nowhere – and they know it. Some of ’em can’t wait to get there.
You live for what you live for, and no one can tell you what that should be, and no one can even really understand what it means to you, except in whatever clumsy way you can describe it. But in Hades, everything a man might live for is taken away and broken – not just destroyed but desecrated, deliberately stripped of everything that made it sacred.
Want a decent job? Got connections? Want a family? Divorce Court will be happy to take that away. Just want a good life for your kids? If we can’t kill them before they’re born, we’ll kill their hopes, instead. Want an education? Fat chance. But how about a swanky new fire station and generous pensions for every functionary in the state? That you can have.
By abstraction, we break the world into tokens, then sort and stack those tokens in imagination. That much is useful, but it is not proscriptive: The world is itself, not the accumulation of tokens we imagine. When you break a man’s world into tokens, then try to drive him with them – like a dog doing tricks for treats – you rob him of everything that matters in his life, leaving him with nothing that does.
So how do you answer that? When you’re young, you can keep promising yourself that tomorrow will be different. How many tomorrows does it take for that tire to go flat? What’s going to be different when the alarm goes off this morning?
How come people in Hades don’t want to live longer, work harder and pay more taxes?
Why would they? What’s in it for them?
And yet, somehow we make it from there to babies and puppies, hope and love – and a clean, clear shot at redemption.
Dusty is about a road trip – back from a funeral. And it’s a buddy story – about a dog. It won’t take you an hour to read, but it will breathe new life into your hopes – in languages living and dead.
This morning, I reposted a note I wrote at the Koch brothers two years ago. It was funny for me to see how much of the theory I was talking about then shows up as story in this book – and in all of the Traindancing stories. I’m rebuilding narrative art from the inside out – not just content but form and structure. I’ll have more to say about that, bet on it, but Dusty is the best example so far of what I’m aiming for.