Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Part Twenty-Five, Chapter Two - Putting the "Satire" in Funeral

With his latest attempt to waste the reader's time with a meaningless sideplot thwarted, Gris reluctantly turns on the HellerVision, hoping to find his enemy in some trouble he can take schadenfreude from.  What he finds is a funeral in progress in an enormous cathedral, with majestic, sorrowful music and a sobbing, black-clad Babe Corleone being comforted by Heller.  Yes, it's the memorial for Jimmy "The Gutter" Tavilnasty, sent home with the Turkish consul those nights ago.  In the largest church in the nation.  Complete with media coverage.

I guess this is a satire of how America glorifies the passing of criminal celebrities while ignoring the deaths of everyday heroes?

There are speeches.  A choir boy says how if it weren't for Jimmy, he'd never have learned to "let the other boys love me!"  An old man from a reform school fondly remembers how a young Jimmy organized the largest riots ever to ever rock the youth prison, calling him "the idol of a thousand street gangs."  And then a prison psychologist calls Jimmy a model patient who took to behavior modification therapy like a duck to water.  "He went from bad to worse and finally, under my careful coaching, became the very embodiment of American crime."

Now wait a minute.  Psychologists are the very definition of evil, right?  And Bang-Bang at least is a mobster who recognizes this.  So he's okay with this one being here, okay with him warping an associate?  Babe hasn't heard any complaints and is fine with having her subordinates' heads scrambled by these quacks?

And this is ignoring the fact that the psychologist is outright admitting to making prisoners into even worse criminals, something no sane person would pay him to do.  Therefore, this nightmarish vision of Earth is inhabited by lunatics willing to defy logic and self-interest so that Hubbard can "satirize" them.  Or else this isn't that much of a parody and he actually views everyone else this way.

Jimmy's casket gets taken outside through "an arch of switchblades made by twenty street gangs."  And once again I stumble over this sentence and do a double-take.  A few chapters ago I laughed when Gris imagined Bawtch's funeral and joked that the old paper-pusher would pass under an arch of pens.  It was silly.  Except something similar has just actually happened, even though a character in the book was admitting how stupid it would be.  Therefore, this world is officially a bad joke.

Anyway, the hitman get stuffed in the Corleone family crypt where "Holy Joe" is already quietly decomposing.  In a nearly-effective moment Babe Corleone sobs that she's "losing all her boys," which would be a little more tragic if said boys weren't unrepentant murderers or crime lords.  She pulls herself together, mentions that she's heard how "Jerome" is interested in racecars, and asks him to promise her not to put himself in danger.

Heller thinks about this for a moment and politely declines.  But Babe reconsiders and says "Good," making him promise to kill Gunsalmo Silva if he ever encounters him.  And the book's hero instantly agrees to perform a mob hit on behalf of the head of an organized crime syndicate.  I guess it could be satire about how literary protagonists can be emotionless murder machines, were it not for the fact the the author's previous work featured a hero who wiped out an entire species without remorse.

Gris meanwhile is profoundly moved by the gloominess and solemn spectacle of the funeral, so much so that he begins to fantasize about Utanc sobbing at his tombstone.  He lies down to dream deeply Emo dreams but finds a note in his pillow, voicing disapproval at his slacking and promising to "terminate" him unless he handles Heller.  Drowning in angst, Gris simply turns the note over and writes "Go ahead" on the back, puts aside all his weapons, and sets out for a dusklit walk, hoping a bullet will end his miserable existence with every step.  Maybe then Utanc will realize what a prize she's throwing away, huh?

And good grief would it make me happy for Gris' wishes to come true, but unfortunately this whole thing is written in the past tense with the framing device that Gris is confessing his crimes in a prison after the story's events have ended.  So there's no chance that he'll actually die and give this story a sudden happy ending, removing any bit of drama or tension from this chapter. 

Interesting note: the only time the deceased is given his full title of Jimmy "The Gutter" Tavilnasty is in Gris' narration at the chapter's start.  Everyone at the funeral just calls him Jimmy or Jimmy Tavilnasty.  Even though in the rest of the series he's always at least Jimmy "The Gutter."  My brain.

Back to Chapter One

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