…what we students of history always learn is that the human being is a very complicated contraption and that they are not good or bad but are good and bad and the good comes out of bad and the bad out of good, and the devil take the hindmost. ~ Jack Burden
...the story of Willie Stark and the story of Jack Burden are, in one sense, one story.
It was a piece of luck for Willie.
he was running for Governor. Or rather, he was running in the Democratic primary, which in our state is the same us running for Governor.
I was supposed to do a lot of different things, and one of them was to lift up fifteen-year-old, hundred-and-thirty-five-pound hairy white dogs on summer afternoons and paint an expression of unutterable bliss upon their faithful features as they gaze deep, deep into the Boss’s eyes.[photo-op at the old family farm]
The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can’t know. He can’t know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can’t know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn’t got and which if he had it, would save him. There’s the cold in your stomach, but you open the envelope, you have to open the envelope, for the end of man is to know.
If the human race didn’t remember anything it would be perfectly happy. I was a student of history once in a university and if I learned anything from studying history that was what I learned. Or to be more exact, that was what I thought I had learned.
This has been the story of Willie Stark, but it is my story too. For I have a story. It is the story of a man who lived in the world and to him the world looked one way for a long time and then it looked another and very different way.
…sunk her harpoon deeper than ever Queequeg sunk it…
Then the boss spied a fellow, a tall gaunt-shanked, malarial, leather-faced side of jerked venison, wearing jean pants and a brace of mustaches hanging off the kind of face you see in photographs of General Forrest’s cavalrymen…My god, you talk like Byram was human! He’s a thing! You don’t prosecute an adding machine if a spring goes bust and makes a mistake. You fix it. Well, I fixed Byram. I fixed him so his unborn great-grandchildren will wet their pants on this anniversary and not know why. Boy, it will be the shock in the genes. Hell, Byram is just something you use, and he’ll sure be useful from now on. ~ The Governor discussing how to deal with a corrupt bureaucratHe learned that the world is like an enormous spider web and if you touch it, however lightly, at any point, the vibration ripples to the remotest perimeter and the drowsy spider feels the tingle and is drowsy no more but springs out to fling the gossamer coils about you who have touched the web and then inject the black, numbing poison under your hide.That is what all of us historical researchers believe. And we love truth.For West is where we all plan to go some day. It is where you go when the land gives out and the old-filed pines encroach. It is where you go when you get the letter saying: Flee, all is discovered. It is where you go when you look down at the blade in your hand and the blood on it. It is where you go when you are told that you are a bubble on the tide of empire. It is where you go when you hear that thar’s gold in them-thar hills. It is where you go to grow up with the country. It is where you go to spend your old age. Or it is just where you go.The second day I was in Texas. I was traveling through the part where the flat-footed, bilious frog-sticker-toting Baptist biscuit-eaters live. Then I was traveling through the part where the crook-legged, high-heeled, gun-wearing, spick-killing, callous-rumped sons of the range live and crowd the drugstore on Saturday night and then all go round the corner to see episode three of “Vengeance on Vinegar Creek,” starring Gene Autry as Borax Pete.I had seen three hangings and one electrocution, but they are different. In a hanging you do not change a man’s personality. You just change the length of his neck and give him a quizzical expression, and in an electrocution you just cook some bouncing meat in a wholesale lot.I tried to tell her how if you could not accept the past and its burden there was no future, for without one there cannot be the other, and how if you could accept the past you might hope for the future, for only out of the past can you make the future.