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Monday, March 28, 2005

THE MANDINGO PROJECT-part 5: chapters 33-50, the apocalyptic and ultra-offensive conclusion

As you have no doubt noticed from the previous installments, there was apparently no form of editorial control over MANDINGO whatsoever, so as a public service I am going to utterly gloss over the unnecessary clutter that impedes getting to the crux of the tome’s remainder, so I accept your thanks with much grace.

And so we finally reach the home stretch, the final one hundred and eighty-seven pages of this monolith of bad taste, and, HOO-BOY, what a final one hundred and eighty-seven pages they are…

The pregnancies of Ellen and Blanche are now about seven months along and Hammond leaves Falconhurst with Doc Redfield for a slave-selling business trip to Natchez — shooting down his plans to go to New Orleans since it is the site of a raging “cholrie” epidemic — unknowingly leaving his lover unprotected and at the mercies of the now Bukowski-level-drunk Blanche, who seems to spend her every waking hour pouring corn liquor toddies down her gullet. Shortly after Hammond sets off, Blanche gets plowed and orders Ellen sent to her bedroom. Upon arrival, Ellen is stripped naked, subjected to a litany of drunken, jealousy-driven cursing, and the sudden revelation that Blanche keeps a bullwhip in her night stand (???), an implement that the drunken brother-fucker cruelly uses to beat the unborn child out of her husband’s favorite (!!!). When Ellen loses the baby and the whip wielding Blanche is caught in the act by the elder Maxwell and Lucretia Borgia, the elder Maxwell orders Blanche, Ellen and Lucretia Borgia stay mum about the real cause of Ellen’s miscarriage.

Meanwhile in Natchez, Hammond and Redfield sell a bunch of slaves, go to a high class whorehouse — where Hammond blows off the unwanted advances of the beautiful white whores who throw themselves at him since they are too white for him to even think about getting down with — and run into cousin Charles, who excuses his theft of both Blanche’s bridal price money and wedding ring (to say nothing of gay-as-the-hills slave, Jason) by claiming that he considered it a loan and that he would eventually pay the cash back to his father, cash that he spent on living the high life. That said, Hammond accepts Charles’ apology (???), even agreeing not to tell Charles’ family that he is alive, rather than dead, as they had assumed. And Charles, upon hearing of his sister’s delicate condition, mysteriously comments “I sure hope the baby don’t come out all gotch-eyed like me…” Hammond, being about as sharp as a bag of wet mice, of course fails to realize the implications of his cousin’s statement. And lastly, in a move that surely wins some sort of prize for sheer stupidity, Hammond buys two identical pairs of pricy earrings, one for his wife and one for his beloved slave girl, the gift for the latter being intended to mark her as his chosen mate.

The homecoming (yet again!!!) to Falconhurst is somber as Hammond learns of the loss of Ellen’s “sucker,” but Hammond, smoothie that he is, mollifies Ellen with the gift of earrings, making her forget her loss and cry tears of unbridled joy (???!!!???). In no time Blanche notices Ellen’s fancy bling-bling and rejects her matching gift, loudly refusing to be marked as just another of Hammond’s whores. Shortly thereafter Blanche gives birth to a baby girl, Sophy, who is indeed, as Charles predicted, “gotch-eyed.” Hammond, clueless as ever, chalks the resemblance to Charles up to the fact that he and Blanche are from the same gene pool, while the reader can do the math and figure out that Blanche and her brother had been getting it on with regularity for years, rather than just the one-shot occurrence Blanche had previously claimed.

Though a physician was sent for to assist with Blanche’s delivery, the doctor arrives stinking drunk hours after the event, propped up by his handsome young assistant. The assistant performs a perfunctory post-birth examination of Blanche — which of course turns her on like nobody’s business — and afterward discusses with the male Maxwells a virulent outbreak of the clap that has been breaking out on other plantations in the area, an epidemic that he turns out to be knowingly responsible for, which Hammond discovers a week or two after his visit when the guest’s complimentary bed wench turns up with the disease. Fortunately the girl had not had sex with any of the other slaves after her romp with the doctor’s assistant, so the outbreak is quelled by placing her under quarantine.

As for Blanche’s aptness at motherhood, she doesn’t give a flying rat-fuck about the kid and turns it over to be raised by Big Pearl, after which Hammond takes up with Ellen practically full-time, throwing Blanche the occasional bone in hope of siring an heir.

Hammond once again leaves on business and Blanche, fed up with her husband’s interest in slaves detouring his attentions from her, drunkenly plots the ultimate revenge via her husband’s prize slave, Mede. Blanche orders Mede to fuck her senseless — an act which occurs “off screen” — pierces his ears with her gifts from Hammond, and has him service her several times during her hubbie’s absence. All of the slaves know about this sordid turn of events and Mede is flat out not into it, but as a docile slave he has no choice but to obey his mistress, despite fears of a horrible outcome should Hammond get a clue. The one unexpected wrinkle to the situation is Hammond’s young slave, Meg, informing Blanche in no uncertain terms that he will rat her out to the master if she doesn’t comply to his desire for some white poontang whenever he wants some, even getting his twin brother, Alph, in on the sexual blackmail. Inevitably, Blanche becomes preggers, but whose baby is it? When Hammond returns and learns of the new pregnancy he naturally assumes the child is his.

A Frenchman from New Orleans who is an obvious homosexual drops in after hearing about the twins, Alph and Meg, and offers an incredible sum of money to possess them, even offering to buy their mother, Lucretia Borgia, to keep them happy. Despite her vital role in the running of the household and her importance to the Maxwells in general, Hammond agrees to sell the loyal slave and her dickhead sons to the Frenchman, and after much crying and hand wringing the slave and her boys are bound to new lives in the Big Easy. Soon enough, however, Lucretia Borgia escapes back to Falconhurst, citing the increasingly assholish behavior of her sons while residing in the lap of comparative luxury as being just too intolerable to deal with (more intolerable than slavery?), so she returned to familiar surroundings on the back of a mule. After some half-hearted chastisement she is welcomed back to the fold and things return to normal; the Frenchman, apparently happy with his nightly bungholery of the twins, makes no attempt to reclaim Lucretia Borgia despite having legally purchased her (convenient for the plot, no?).

Blanche’s mother shows up to visit and ends up staying when she finds out about her daughter’s pregnancy, and her rampaging temperance and enforcement of religion drives both Hammond and his father to near insanity.

Then the big day comes and Blanche goes into labor, with Doc Redfield, his wife, “the widder,” and Blanche’s mother in attendance. When the child is born, he is the enormous spitting image of Mede, and upon seeing her grandson Blanche’s mother picks up the infant, smashes its brains out against the wall and hastily departs. When Hammond finds out the truth, he ices over and calmly poisons his wife with a toddy laced with the powder used by Doc Redfield to do away with slaves who are too old to be worth maintaining anymore (see THE MANDINGO PROJECT PART 1). Then he questions the house slaves as to their knowledge of the situation, discovering that everybody in the house but himself, his father and Blanche’s mother knew what was going on but could do nothing about it since they were bound to obey their mistress’ whims with no questions asked and no going to the master. In the course of the interrogations Hammond also learns that Blanche actively engaged in the jungle fever and was not raped, as Hammond and his father naturally assumed. “A white lady wantin’ to pleasure with a nigger? Preposterous!” But Hammond finally realizes that his wife was simply trash of the worst order, what with all the brother fucking and such.

Hammond limps out to Mede’s quarters and orders the Mandingo to fire up the gigantic hog-boiling kettle and keep the fire burning until the water reaches a high cooking temperature. He then forces the terrified Mede into the scalding water by using a pitchfork, holding him under the water until the heat kills him and covering the pot with a big lid. He then orders Lucy — Mede’s mother and lover, remember? — to keep the pot covered and keep it boiling until told otherwise. The Mede soup graphically simmers for two solid days — complete with a description of Hammond checking the stew and producing Mede’s partially-denuded skull on the end of his pitchfork —until the slave’s flesh has been completely rendered into a thick, bone-filled broth, after which it is poured into an open grave over the corpses of Blanche and her love-child, a bit of poetic “justice” since Hammond figures that if she wanted to be with a nigger so bad she could be with him for eternity. Hammond graciously allows a grieving Lucy to take Mede’s bones as a keepsake (!!!).

A weary Hammond returns to the big house and informs his father that he is going to find Alph and Meg and kill them for daring to fuck Blanche, after which he intends to move “to the Texies” so he can avoid being known to the locals as “Hammond Maxwell, whose wife pleasured with niggers.” His father is distraught upon hearing this intended course of action, but he assures his son that Falconhurst will be there for him if he should choose to return.

Then the whole fucking mess comes to a startlingly abrupt end.


So there you have it, a mercifully short summation of one of the most infamous books ever unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace.

A few final notes:

-It amazes me that the thing that most blew people’s minds about the book is Blanche’s forced seduction of Mede, an event that doesn’t occur until roughly the last fifty pages of a six hundred and fifty-nine page behemoth. One would think that in a book replete with virtually every form of sexual, violent and psychological perversion imaginable that would scandalize the audience of the late-1950’s — rape, incest, pedophilia, cross-dressing, homosexuality, sadomasochistic bedroom games with whips, castrations of slaves, torture, men biting chunks out of each other, raging alcoholism on nearly every page — the interracial coupling of a black man and a white woman would seem insignificant by comparison, but apparently not.

-Author Kyle Onstott was a writer of technical manuals and his orientation toward such volumes is very evident in his intricately detailed recounting of the minutia of the slave trade. While Onstott is clearly against such practices, his matter-of-fact detachment from the described atrocities only helps to lend a stark illumination to the horror and dehumanization involved, both for whites and blacks, and the fact that the high-falutin’ whites are portrayed as ignorant and oblivious to the fact that their world is both cripplingly insular and visibly decaying around them is rare for a narrative of this sort. At no point do we admire any of the white characters, and the reader’s opinion of them ranges from pity for their inhumanity and contempt for what a bunch of domination-mad assholes they are.

-The only black character in the entire book that is sympathetic in any way is Hammond’s bed wench, Ellen. She is the one truly sweet soul in the piece, without guile for anyone — except for Blanche, but, hey, the white bitch started that shit — and wanting nothing more than the love of her master. Sadly, she has no personality other than what is necessary for Hammond’s love object and she accepts her status as a privileged piece of property with no protest whatsoever, subservient in all ways to the bitter end. Interestingly, once the events with the killing of Mede are over and Hammond readies to go on his mission of vengeance against the twins and eventually relocate to “the Texies,” there is no mention at all of what will become of Ellen.

-The 1975 film adaptation, while seriously flawed in many ways, vastly improves over its source material by eliminating all of the extraneous subplots and diversions and tightening up the overall story structure. It also ups the sensationalism factor by rewriting parts of the story that needed tweaking, such as introducing Mede not as some schmuck hanging out at a plantation, but by having him show up in all of his Black Superman glory clad in naught but a loin cloth and getting his naughty bits shockingly inspected by a horny Dutch widow who intends to purchase him as a fuck toy, all while looking bored at all of it. The film’s handling of the Hammond/Ellen relationship is a lot more believable than that found in the novel and is truly bittersweet since the film acknowledges that their love may be true but when push comes to shove Ellen is still nothing more to Hammond than just a nigger, and that is all she ever will be, a fact that Hammond yells at her near the film’s end when his judgment is clouded by raging anger over the Blanche/Mede thing. The shattered look on Ellen’s face at that moment of unbridled truth will break your heart. Oh, and we also get to see full frontal nudity from Perry “Riptide” King in the role of Hammond Maxwell, so if you ever wanted to see a TV star’s dick…

-The film turned out to be an unintentional laugh riot for those of us who revel in offensiveness and truly bad movies, and while the whole movie is a gold mine of cinematic schlock special recognition must be accorded to Susan George, the Brit actress whose controversial performance in Sam Peckinpah’s classic study of the violence in man, STRAW DOGS, is still the subject of much discussion some thirty-four years after its release; George was cast as cousin Blanche, and her turn as the brother-fucking, interracial sex offender is one of the most hilariously over-the-top performances in the entire history of human civilization, much less the history of Hollywood. You simply have not lived until you witness her histrionics when Hammond accuses her of not being a virgin on their wedding night. Run out right fucking now and rent this film!

-The success of the novel lead to a sequel, DRUM, written by an ageing Onstott and assisted by his friend Lance Horner. It’s actually a pretty good read, certainly superior to its predecessor, but after that one Onstott croaked and Horner took the reins of the series (sometimes crediting Onstott as a co-author, which was outright bullshit), turning it into a long-running festival of outright potboilers that essentially created the genre known as “plantation porn.” All of the books that succeeded DRUM are howling trash, but a few are more entertaining to read than others; they jump back and forth in history, providing prequels and sequels to MANDINGO, all somehow featuring an appearance by Hammond Maxwell, whose age varies accordingly, thereby providing the only real link to the original book. The books in the series that are worth your reading time simply for the sleazy entertainment value are the following:

DRUM (1962)- the only legitimate sequel to MANDINGO and a cracking good read in its own right that does away with many of the structural and narrative deficiencies found in the original, presumably thanks to the input of lance Horner and an editor. Adapted to film in a drastically rewritten version in 1976; the movie features the great Warren Oates as an older Hammond Maxwell, Pam Grier as his current favorite, Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith as precocious interracial terrorist/ nymphomaniac Sophy, and somehow manages to be even more hilarious than the 1975 film.

MASTER OF FALCONHURST (1964)- in which a black man not only becomes the legal master of Falconhurst, but also marries the white Sophy Maxwell. Needless to say, much tragedy, sex and violence ensues.

FALCONHURST FANCY (1966)- my favorite of the series. In a departure from the other books, this installment focuses on a female protagonist, Dovie Verder, a plantation owner who is a lot more complex than any other character in the entire series and a strong, open-minded proto-feminist, and recounts her deep love affair with Colt, a slave so beautiful that his description brings to mind a Greek god. The usual sex and violence shenanigans are on hand again, but this time it’s utterly compelling and would have made for a great, if inflammatory, film. After this the series remained readable, but by that point it was all story via assembly line.

-Also of note is the fact that many of the books in the series feature the adventures of Bricktop, a redheaded mustee slave who is indistinguishable from a white man but for some brown markings on his torso that he keeps covered with his shirt. All of the books involving Bricktop feature him fucking everything in sight, including guys since “niggers ain’t got sense enough to care,” and he always gets engaged to some gorgeous southern belle after fucking her into puppy dog-like docility. His true status as a slave is soon revealed, and after a near-fatal beating upon discovery he escapes to find adventure and pussy in another book, leaving behind a pregnant white girl who doesn’t care if he was black since the dicking was just so good. If you read one book about Bricktop you have read them all, so the only one I’ll recommend is 1975’s GOLDEN STUD.

And now that I have MANDINGOed myself out, I have begun reading THE OTHER HOLLYWOOD, the oral history of the American porno film industry, in an attempt to get Falconhurst out of my head. Sure it’s sleazy, but at least it doesn’t involve slaves. Unless you take Linda Lovelace at her word…

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

THE MANDINGO PROJECT-part 4: chapters 25-32

So here's a summary of the next eighty-two pages already:

And so at last the bedraggled group of weary travelers FINALLY arrive at Falconhurst and the book picks up steam again.

Upon seeing Falconhurst and comparing its no-frills practicality to the opulence of her father’s Crowfoot estate, Blanche is sorely disappointed and launches into a childishly petulant litany of criticisms and comparisons that are quickly quashed by the still-fuming Hammond; from here on Hammond holds his knowledge of Blanche’s incestuous relationship with her brother over her as his one surefire means to ruin her reputation permanently. Nothing that she says or does carries any weight, and she knows it, which will eventually lead to the most infamous plot point in the entire novel…

Hammond introduces Blanche to her new father-in-law, and the two bond over a mutual love of strong toddies, so much so that Blanche very quickly spirals down the path of hardcore, all day alcoholism thanks to boredom (since she never gets to go anywhere and visitors of quality never drop by other than Doc Redfield) and her husband’s spiteful neglect of his husbandly duties. You see, Hammond only beds down with Blanche a couple of times, purely to facilitate an heir to the plantation, but his outright distaste for white chicks in general and Blanche in particular only strengthens his bond to Ellen the wench. Upon meeting Ellen, Blanche figures out the nature of the slave girl’s ties to Hammond and a slowly-simmering cold war between the two begins in earnest although there is nothing that Blanche can do about her husband’s dalliances in dusky-town. Anyway, the two enemies soon turn out to be pregnant, and Hammond gushes over the prospect of a child with his slave lover while he cares not one whit for Blanche’s spawn, except for its future status as his heir. And speaking of pregnancies, uber-stud Mede manages to knock up both Lucy and Big Pearl, who unbeknownst to him are his mother and half-sister respectively.

Mede’s training resumes to an extent when Hammond receives news of a rich man from New Orleans who seeks to pit his seasoned fighter, Topaz, against the unbeatable Maxwell Mandingo, so Hammond obsesses over readying his man to win the fight and score him some money and more slaves; during the training Hammond begins to worry about whether Mede can defeat a city-trained combatant, and since the challenge from Topaz’s owner is the only fight that Mede has been offered since he established a rep for being unbeatable Hammond contemplates selling Mede since his buying price of $2700 has pretty much gone to waste (he has obviously forgotten about Mede’s stud services). That plan is immediately shot down by the elder Maxwell, who tells Hammond in no uncertain terms that Mede is not for sale under any circumstances, despite his being Hammond’s property, and since he is the finest Mandingo that anyone has ever seen he is invaluable to the plantation’s breeding pool.

With her husband’s attentions diverted to his trophy buck, Blanche’s drunkenness becomes overwhelming and she stops bothering with taking care of her appearance unless company shows up (which is pretty much never), so she wanders about the big house in a Mother Hubbard nightgown with no shoes on and her greasy, stringy hair unkempt and looking like someone had boiled her head. The only attention she receives from Hammond is an obligatory kiss on the forehead as the smallest of acknowledgements or
hostile reproach whenever she opens her mouth to speak, and while she finds herself fond of the old man she finds his rambling stories boring and only puts up with them as a social excuse to get completely shitfaced, at one point getting melancholy over not getting any Hammond dick and lamenting the absence of her brother’s gotch-eyed affections, in front of the slaves no less.

During one of her all day toddy-fests, a guest shows up to announce the arrival of the challenging slave owner and, while dressed in her finest Scarlett O’Hara rags, Blanche bottoms out rather publicly, and vomits her guts out as she is lead upstairs and away from the eyes of the guest. This incident causes Hammond to order Lucretia Borgia and the slaves to under no circumstances supply Blanche with liquor. But, like any good trashy novel character, Blanche’s vices prove unstoppable as she not only sneaks toddies, but is also aided and abetted by her father-in-law who honestly thinks her Jones for stiff mixed drinks has to do with curing her “headaches,” which may not be inaccurate thanks to the old “hair of the dog” theory.

The fight between the two slaves takes place at the tavern in Benson, and upon arrival Hammond is surprised to encounter that scumbag Brownlee (see THE MANDINGO PROJECT part 1), who coveted Alph and Meg at the bar. The owner of the challenger, one Neri by name, wants to bet five grand and not wager slaves as Hammond had expected, leaving Ham with nothing to wager but the five hundred in gold coins that he had dug up from one of the kettles buried at Falconhurst and the assembled pot of cash that those who vouch for his word cobble together, and the promise of money from the local Jewish banker. The icing on the cake is Hammond’s desperate willingness to do anything to win, and that desire causes him to put up both Alph and Meg as stakes despite his promise to Lucretia Borgia that he would never sell her twin sons. His father rationalizes this breach in keeping a promise by reminding Hammond that he only promised that the boys were exempt from being sold, but there was no mention of wagering them. Besides, it was only a promise made to a nigger anyway…

After the tavern owner drags out the fight’s start time in order to sell as much whisky as possible, the battle begins and Mede’s opponent is revealed to be a cocaine fueled giant with years of bare-knuckle experience, a fact plainly evident by a visible mosaic of scars and his complete lack of ears, both a casualty of his career. The unspeakably savage brawl involves much graphic description of every dirty move in the book — made worse by the fact that the opponents are completely naked —, a catalog of knees grinding into groins, fingernails clawing through flesh, attempted eye-gouging, you name it, and the fight goes on for over thirty-five minutes. As both slaves try to overcome each other and a combination of serious injury and exhaustion, it looks like the fight will go to Topaz until Mede, pinned beneath the vicious juggernaut, gets him in a solid hold and chews out his jugular, spitting out the chunk of flesh in a sickening display of gore.

With Topaz deader than disco, Neri leaves (accompanied by Brownlee) Hammond to his victory, and our heroes pack up the savaged Mede for the return to Falconhurst. On the way back the party is robbed by two masked highwaymen, probably Neri and Brownlee but there is no proof since they are masked, and while Hammond is pissed off about it his father isn’t too concerned since all the robbers got was what they put in; don’t forget that most of the promised wager cash was promised from the bank so it wasn’t in hand and consequently not stolen. After that harrowing setback, our heroes make the trek back to the plantation.

NEXT: the apocalyptic and incredibly offensive conclusion.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

THE MANDINGO PROJECT-part 3: chapters 15-24

And so, another two-hundred and fourteen pages...

Hammond and his entourage leave the Coign plantation and drag the readers along for the ride in the longest fifty-two pages ever committed to paper, the interminable chapter fifteen. Nowhere in the book is the need for some judicious editing more evident than here since the chapter meanders endlessly, and despite an all-too-in-depth recounting of two stopovers during the road trip back to Falconhurst, nothing of any significance whatsoever to the story happens. The only events of even the slightest import are:

-Hammond’s interest in Ellen the wench blooms into openly expressed, full-blown true love with absolutely nothing in the narrative to make such instant passion believable in the slightest.

-Ellen is forced to switch clothes with her obviously queer brother, Jason, and with the switch in clothes Jason becomes somewhat desirable to Hammond’s annoying cousin, Charles.

-At the first of two uninteresting stopovers an attempt is made by some random white guy to steal Ellen as a bed wench for his epileptic brat of a son (who shits himself during his fits), but the plan is thwarted when the would-be abductor is subdued by Mede after the culprit mistook the in-drag Jason for Ellen. After being released, the would-be abductor shoots at Hammond’s party as they leave, mildly injuring Charles’ horse. Much is made of this injury since no real sex or violence occurs during this chapter, so I guess that the author felt that a horse’s minor gunshot wound was better than nothing.

-During the second stopover, Hammond and his party fall victim to a minor flea infestation thanks to the squalid conditions in their host’s shack.

-Upon his master’s return to Falconhurst, Meg becomes jealous of Ellen and launches into a more explicit homosexual reverie than those witnessed in previous chapters.

After that chapter finally draws to a close, Hammond begins Mede’s training as a fighting nigger in earnest and turns him over to Big Pearl and Lucy as their live-in boy toy, knowing full well that the women are Mede’s half-sister and mother, a fact known only to Hammond and his father. It is also subtly hinted at that Charles and the effeminate slave Jason have entered into a homosexual relationship, but little is made of that in the narrative. Ganymede is also revealed to be hiding an erudite manner of speech which was preferred at the Coign, but since the slaves at Falconhurst are raised to be as ignorant as possible Mede adopts inarticulateness both to fit in and please his master and to set his fellow slaves at ease.

Anyway, Hammond eventually brings Mede into town to fight another slave in a prearranged bout, the kind of savage brawl that would rightly be described as a human cockfight. Luckily Mede proves to be rather a natural grappler, handily whupping his opponent with a submission hold that simultaneously causes the fight to be conceded in Hammond's favor and disappoints the bettors since no blood was shed. Mede goes on to win all fights in which he is entered, and within the space of two weeks no one is willing to pit their slaves against the unbeatable Mandingo buck. Oddly, during Mede's last battle, the owner of his opponent unexpectedly dies right there on the tavern floor. The corpse's pockets are riffled through and while some cash is found there is also a deed to some land, but the exact details are obscure due to the poor penmanship found on the document. Since the deceased's slave was losing to Mede anyway, the fight is forfeited in Hammond's favor, winning him the man's slave and the deed.

Suddenly the fighting plot comes to a screeching halt when the author remembers that he has betrothed his hero to Cousin Blanche back at the Crowfoot plantation and has wasted one hundred and thirteen pages on useless bullshit and road trip stopovers, effectively derailing his own narrative in the process. So Hammond gives cousin Charles the $2500 to take back to the Major at Crowfoot, along with Blanche's ring and Jason the slave. Hammond then reluctantly gets his own shit together and prepares to make it to Crowfoot by the agreed-upon wedding date, meaning obtaining new clothes for himself and Meg, a stultifying process that is explained in excrutiatingly minute detail for far too many pages, and unwillingly leaves behind a distraught Ellen, who is fearful that she will be supplanted in Hammond's heart by his new white wife/prospective broodmare Then, when Hammond and Meg finally get underway, what does the author have up his sleeve for the readers? You guessed it: more road trip stopover anti-adventures.

The latest round of meanderings delights us with yet more overly-described meals and boring examples of Southern hospitality that serve no purpose to the story whatsoever and introduce us to Madison Church ("Mad" for short) a spoiled and gluttonous man-child of an age near Hammond's but with the emotional maturity and behavior of a child in the throes of the "terrible twos." Mad displays great distaste at all matters of male-to-female coupling, even among thoroughbred horses, his chief interest in life, and finds young Meg to be irresistible to the point of wanting the boy to join him and Hammond in the bed that will share overnight at a hotel. It is alluded to that Mad has his lard-ridden way with Meg, and the next day he nags and whines at Hammond, even resorting to blubbery tears in order to get Hammond to stop over at his mother's estate despite Hammond's frequently-mentioned intent to be at Crowfoot within a day. We are then treated to yet another (!!!) stop over and feast, complete with yet more displays of slaves for sale; the only ironic part of all this is that by this point even Hammond is bored with the direction in which the story is going, and Mad proves himself to be one of the most flat-out obnoxious, annoying and downright irritating creations in the world history of fiction. Dear readers, every moment spent reading about this character was an agony and I actually longed for another meal to be served so that the endless description of his fevered mastication would shut him up, no matter how briefly.

After leaving the noxious presence of Mad, Hammond ends up at another stopover, this time finding him obtaining a pair of mustee slaves (a mustee is a slave light-skinned enough to be nearly white) who run away on him almost immediately and then he finally makes it to Crowfoot. Along the way Hammond has made mention of Charles heading back to his home, having departed Falconhurst over a month prior, but he is constantly met with ignorance regarding any sort of a homecoming by Charles. Upon arriving to claim his bride, Hammond finds out that Charles never went home and absconded with the money, the wedding ring and, most offensively of all to all concerned, a slave that didn't belong to him. Slave stealing is just about the worst crime a white man can commit, so if he is caught and prosecuted it would shame his family beyond all hope of recovery. The only cure is to get Blanche and Hammond hitched as quickly as possible since it would be unseemly to charge an in-law with nigger-stealing, and if Charles did ever turn up again the whole incident could be passed off as "a mistake." None of this sits too well with the bratty Blanche, whose Scarlet O'Hara-style fantasies of affluence and a dream wedding have been dashed by her brother's douchebaggery, but she has no choice in the proceedings, no matter how petulantly she behaves. A lightning-fast ceremony performed by Blanche's preacher brother, Dick, seals the deal and Hammond and Blanche retire for a night of connubial bliss...

After very nearly escaping from the Crowfoot plantation in a state of unthinking outrage, Hammond buries a burning anger, makes nice with his new in-laws, and rides off with his new bride. But, you may ask, what was Hammond so pissed off about? Well, after putting the meat to Blanche it is quite obvious to Hammond that she may be a belle, but she sure as hell ain't no virgin, a fact that he points out to her in no uncertain terms, and for all intents and purposes she has sold him used goods. He demands to know who got to her first so he can find the guy and put a bullet through his head, but Blanche stays mum; it doesn't take the deductive skills of Sherlock Holmes to figure out that Blanche was deflowered by her miscreant brother, Charles, but her internal reminiscence of her "violation" while the siblings played house a few years previous reveals that she took great pleasure in the act despite its forbidden nature. Blanche proclaims her virginity-until-Hammond over and over, but to no avail, and simply cannot figure out how he knows she wasn't "pure," despite the fact that her hubby had fucked scores of slave wenches for years on end. Hammond nonetheless resigns himself to his status of being victimized by the treachery of the Woodfords and forces Blanche to agree not to tell his father of her besmirched condition.

On the way back to Falconhurst Hammond recovers his runaway mustees and drops in on that asshole Mad again (thereby subjecting the reader to more of his infantile histrionics) gives him one of the mustees as his "body slave," and grosses out his host to the point of nausea by fucking Blanche right there in the same bedroom that he is sharing with the fat bastard. The next morning sees the journey back to Falconhurst lurching forward once again, with no end immediately in sight for travel-weary readers.

All of what you just read is a very merciful summation of two hundred and fourteen incredibly slow and dull pages, punctuated by repellant characters about whom no one in their right mind would want to read. As I have previously stated, I have read the abridged version of this novel, and most of the events contained in the chapters recounted here were kindly missing from the subsequent edition. The fact that someone actually got paid to edit this book for it's STAND-like monolith of a first edition is laughable.

NEXT: more road trips, nigger fights, marital tension and the inevitable return to Falconhurst (again)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

THE MANDINGO PROJECT-intermission and an observation


as stated in previous installments, I have only read MANDINGO in its abridged form, and now I understand why an abridgement of such a bestseller was neccessary...



Sorry, but I had to get that out of my system.

I normally devour books as I read them — in fact I read the entirety of James Clavell's SHOGUN while laid up in bed with a rampaging flu, a read that took about six nonstop hours — but the original MANDINGO is thwarting me like no book that I have ever read. I am currently stalled at page 235 and nothing, NOTHING is happening, just a bunch of badly-written white dudes sitting around talking about forcing eggs down a major character's throat as part of his training as a "fightin' nigger." Let's face it: the hook of this work is the bizarre interracial soap opera tensions between Hammond and his slave Ellen, and the upcoming "fuck me or else" coupling between white Southern belle Blanche and big, hung like a mastadon buck, Mede, and as of almost halfway through the ponderous volume the real action of the plot is often derailled for scores of pages by endless jibba-jab that amounts to little but the occasional drop of foreshadowing.

As of this point I say stick to the movie version; true, there is some stuff that's coming up in the book that is far more twisted and offensive than anything found in the film adaptation — and that's REALLY saying something — but the film trims away enough fat to feed a village of Eskimos for three decades. The things I suffer through to keep you enlightened...