The title of this long essay comes from one of the finest American short stories ever written: William Faulkner’s tale of cosseted delusion and Southern gothic horror -- "A Rose for Emily”.
And rather than being a pedant and beating the point home with a rock, let me instead tell you the story…of the story…and you can judge how apt it is.
Also here is your Big Spoiler Alert that I’m going to give the ending away.
So once upon a time, in an unnamed Southern town that acts as the story’s narrator, there existed Miss Emily Grierson.
She had her peculiar habits handed down through the generations, but the town looked after her:
“Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town.”And in due course, Miss Emily fell in love with Mr. Homer Barron:
“…a big, dark, ready man with a big voice and eyes lighter than his face..”(Jesus, how that SOB could write)
“We learned that Miss Emily had been to the jeweler's and ordered a man's toilet set in silver, with the letters H. B. on each piece. Two days later we learned that she had bought a complete outfit of men's clothing, including a nightshirt...”But it was not to be. She got dumped:
“That was two years after her father's death and a short time after her sweetheart--the one we believed would marry her --had deserted her. After her father's death she went out very little; after her sweetheart went away, people hardly saw her at all. “However, shortly after her sweetheart went away, her place began to reek.
No one could figure out why, but the town, as always, discretely indulged her:
The next day he received two more complaints, one from a man who came in diffident deprecation. "We really must do something about it, Judge. I'd be the last one in the world to bother Miss Emily, but we've got to do something." That night the Board of Aldermen met--three graybeards and one younger man, a member of the rising generation.Many long years later, Miss Emily died, and the town came to fulfill their final obligation to her:
"It's simple enough," he said. "Send her word to have her place cleaned up. Give her a certain time to do it in, and if she don't. .."
"Dammit, sir," Judge Stevens said, "will you accuse a lady to her face of smelling bad?"
So the next night, after midnight, four men crossed Miss Emily's lawn and slunk about the house like burglars, sniffing along the base of the brickwork and at the cellar openings while one of them performed a regular sowing motion with his hand out of a sack slung from his shoulder. They broke open the cellar door and sprinkled lime there, and in all the outbuildings.
After a week or two the smell went away.
…And then, at long last, they learned her horrifying secret…
Already we knew that there was one room in that region above the stairs which no one had seen for forty years, and which would have to be forced. They waited until Miss Emily was decently in the ground to open in.
The violence breaking down the door seemed to fill the room with pervading dust. A thin, acrid pall as of the tomb seemed to be everywhere upon this room decked and furnished as for a bridal: upon the valance curtains of faded rose color, upon the rose-shaded lights, upon the dressing table, upon the delicate array of crystal and the man’s toilet things backed with tarnished silver, silver so tarnished that the monogram was obscured. Among them lay a collar and tie, as if they had just been removed, which, lifted, left upon the surface a pale crescent of dust. Upon a chair hung a suit, carefully folded; beneath it the two mute shoes and the discarded socks.And while telling us that the town’s little old lady had kept her lover's corpse in her spare room might have been more than creepy enough for any other story, for Faulkner it was not.
The man himself lay in the bed.
For a long white we just stood there, looking down at the profound and fleshless grin. The body had apparently once lain in the attitude of an embrace, but now the long sleep that outlasts love, that conquers even the grimace of love, had cuckolded him. What was left of him, rotted beneath what was left of the nightshirt, had become intractable from the bed in which he lay; and upon him and upon the pillow beside him lay that even coating of patient and biding dust.
For Faulkner, there was one more layer to peel away:
Then we noticed in that second pillow was indentation of a head.Like Miss Emily, Mr. Brooks fell into a passionate and ill-considered love long ago. But the Conservative Myth to which Bobo gave his heart never really existed, and any vestige of it in the Real World died long ago.
One of us lifted something from it, and leaning forward, that faint invisible dust dry and acrid in the nostrils, we saw a long strand of iron-gray hair.
Like Miss Emily, Mr. Brooks simply cannot not cope with the cold reality that the object of his affection is stone dead and has been for decades, and so, like the legions of privileged, white Republicans just like him, he has gone quietly mad.
And because he cannot cope with the idea that what he loved is a lie, like Miss Emily, Mr. Brooks has instead set up housekeeping with the putrefying corpse of his Once And Future King.
He sleeps with it.
Chats with it.
Holds tea parties with it.
And will not tolerate any back sass about its goodness and purity.
Like so many Modern Conservatives, David Brooks has been fucking the moldering remains of something long dead, gone and rotten for so long, it started to seem normal to him. And sharing a political marriage bed with a corpse in a kind of ideological necrophilia also just so happens to very much suit the despicable goals of the vile, little monsters who actually own and operate Brooks’ Party and his Movement.
And in his column entitled “History and Calumny”, the gagging reek of continuing this absurd, genteel indulgence of Brook’s nauseating brand of conservative paralogia and psychosis has finally gotten to be too much for the rest of us to stand.
End Part 4 of 4
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