Congress, that Incredible Pigsty

 

A friend writes that my post of earlier this week–the despairing item in which I admitted I was roundly sick of of politics–reminded him of a passage in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel, The Beautiful and Damned:

[He] tried to imagine himself in Congress rooting around in the litter of that incredible pigsty with the narrow and porcine brows he saw pictured sometimes in the rotogravure sections of the Sunday newspapers, those glorified proletarians babbling blandly to the nation the ideas of high school seniors! Little men with copy-book ambitions who by mediocrity had thought to emerge from mediocrity into the lusterless and unromantic heaven of a government by the people — and the best, the dozen shrewd men at the top, egotistic and cynical, were content to lead this choir of white ties and wire collar-buttons in a discordant and amazing hymn, compounded of a vague confusion between wealth as a reward of virtue and wealth as a proof of vice, and continued cheers for God, the Constitution, and the Rocky Mountains!

“I don’t endorse every sentiment there,” my friend notes, “but wow. What a piece of writing!”What a piece of writing indeed. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cather, Faulkner–the prose this country has produced seems argument enough for our mess of a democracy.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Odin Gray Inactive

    Take out the references to rotogravure and wire collar-buttons and you’re left with an accurate picture of Congress today.

    Although “rotogravure” is a wonderful word and should be revived.

    • #1
    • October 17, 2013, at 7:35 AM PDT
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  2. Jeff Karr Member

    I seem to recall that Hunter Thompson once prefaced a brief passage from Gatsby with “OK, now stand back and see how the big boys write.”

    Odin Gray Although “rotogravure” is a wonderful word and should be revived.

    Thanks, Odin: now I’ve got “Easter Parade” stuck in my head!

    • #2
    • October 17, 2013, at 7:51 AM PDT
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  3. KC Mulville Inactive

    May I relate a (somewhat-related) pet peeve?

    During the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard a steady stream of … well … condescension about the participants. I’ve heard a lot of descriptions that they were “just being children,” unable to get along. Obama was chief among the condescenders, portraying Congress as unruly and spoiled children who were merely throwing a tantrum.

    These are the same people who brought us $17 trillion in debt, wondering how “irresponsible” it is to refuse to subsidize more debt.

    I don’t know about you, but as soon as I hear some news or political celebrity complain that his opponents are “just being children,” I know where the children are.

    • #3
    • October 17, 2013, at 8:44 AM PDT
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  4. Matthew Gilley Inactive

    Fitzgerald’s passage would improve with the addition of a editor’s red pen (Hemingway) and the absence of a thesaurus (Faulkner). Otherwise, wonderful.

    • #4
    • October 17, 2013, at 9:07 AM PDT
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  5. Astonishing Inactive
    KC Mulville: . . .

    During the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard a steady stream of … well … condescension about the participants. I’ve heard a lot of descriptions that they were “just being children,” unable to get along. Obama was chief among the condescenders, portraying Congress as unruly and spoiled children who were merely throwing a tantrum.

    These are the same people who brought us $17 trillion in debt, wondering how “irresponsible” it is to refuse to subsidize more debt.

    I don’t know about you, but as soon as I hear some news or political celebrity complain that his opponents are “just being children,” I know where the children are.

    Yes.

    I’ve never been a great fan of Fitzgerald, or the others Peter mentions, lost and cynical precurors of post-modernity. All were third tier writers and fourth or fifth or sixth tier intellects.

    And although it is a common mistake always to atribute to an author the sentiments of one of his characters , if Fitzgerald himself did believe those words, then the soul of his little world more was rotted out than I had thought.

    • #5
    • October 17, 2013, at 9:49 AM PDT
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  6. mikesixes Inactive

    Judging by the opinion polls, most people would agree with most of the sentiments Fitzgerald expressed there. Yet, the public has an endless appetite for new government programs that hand more and more control over our lives to this parliament of whores. It’s a conundrum, innit?

    • #6
    • October 17, 2013, at 10:17 AM PDT
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  7. Peter Meza Member

    What’s wrong with the Rocky Mountains? And what are “wire collar-buttons”?

    • #7
    • October 17, 2013, at 10:57 AM PDT
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  8. genferei Member

    Some things never change. Unfortunately, others – like the size and reach of the federal government over which these nobodies preside – change utterly.

    • #8
    • October 17, 2013, at 11:34 AM PDT
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  9. Profile Photo Member
    Astonishing

    I’ve never been a great fan of Fitzgerald, or the others Peter mentions, lost and cynical precurors of post-modernity. All were third tier writers and fourth or fifth or sixth tier intellects.

    Then who do you like?

    And although it is a common mistake always to atribute to an author the sentiments of one of his characters , if Fitzgerald himself did believe those words, then the soul of his little world more was rotted out than I had thought. · 7 hours ago

    Then you can count me among the rotted souls, because this sounded a lot like what Congress looks like from here.

    Astonishing Consider that Fitzgerald’s contemptuous allusion to “government by the people” comes less than three score after Gettysburg. · 4 hours ago

    Obama hasn’t spent all these trillions on himself. (Some of) We the People are getting exactly what they want from him and his party. 

    • #9
    • October 18, 2013, at 4:58 AM PDT
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  10. Douglas Inactive

    The title of this post alone deserves some kind of hall of fame award. Because it’s perfect. Best description of the place since P.J. O’Rourke wrote Parliament of Whores.

    • #10
    • October 18, 2013, at 9:25 AM PDT
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  11. Astonishing Inactive
    Peter Robinson . . . a passage in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel,The Beautiful and Damned:

     . . . the lusterless and unromantic heaven of a government by the people . . .

    Consider that Fitzgerald’s contemptuous allusion to “government by the people” comes less than three score after Gettysburg.

    • #11
    • October 18, 2013, at 12:43 PM PDT
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  12. Rick Ryan Inactive

    “…what a piece of writing” indeed.

    But for once I must disagree with your conclusion…I think you are grasping at straws in your justified despair.

    You could as easily have said “…Tolstoy, Gogol, Pushkin, Chekhov….argument enough for our mess of Absolutism”.

    • #12
    • October 18, 2013, at 12:57 PM PDT
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