Posts Tagged ‘Bukowski’

Looking for Przybylski

Looking For Przybylski

or

Born Into This

This book is tops in its league: the no-checking and no-fighting hockey league for oldsters. Ex-cops.  Ex-firemen. You’ll either love or hate how the book plays out. You’ll say, “This is the Master League” or “This is the gramps’ league.”

As a bona-fide Przybylski from Detroit, I had to give it a critical reading.  My dad thoroughly enjoyed it.  As for myself, not being a member of The Greatest Generation with its coast-to-coast politeness, I have questions about the detour around “The Race Issue”. How can someone write about a Detroit Polack without a mean stink? Especially as the quality of life declines and the things that don’t cost money, like a safe neighborhood amongst the working poor, are methodically destroyed in the name of social progress.

Yet  Frederick may have more old school codes than politically correct codes governing his work: a gentleman never brings-up a problem that he can’t fix.   So Frederick has his main character, Ziggy Czarnecki, proceed on the plane of a handy-man.  The book maintains a jobber’s, one task at a time, consciousness.  Death is the only nag that isn’t shrugged-off.

Still wanting the book to be tougher, I consider the difficulty of writing about race with moral integrity.  Because the liberal vision of moral integrity demands acceptance of “the other”, while the conservative vision  of moral integrity demands ethnic and cultural self-preservation. Poles tend towards the latter. Gore Vidal said that Poles were unfit for American democracy due to their affinity for a tribal chief. Which, others say, is why Polish-Catholic polities had to be dispersed by bussing in the 1970’s. If this logic points to a timely conspiracy orchestrated by declining WASPs and ascendant Jews in the post-Kennedy era? It’s nothing compared to the timeless conspiracy orchestrated by the Gods of Fate.  A true Pole, in the bottom of his beer glass, would see the destruction of his parish by Civil Rights ideologues as a fated replay of the destruction of Poland by Nazi and Commie ideologues. The bad news is that this long view makes Poles funereal in their metaphysics. The good news is that it keeps them hushed. A Pole looking from the still depths of his beer-glass into the onrushing mirror of the bar would NOT think, “It’s the  Jews, WASPs, Blacks, Germans, Russians, Turks and Huns.”  He’d think, “It’s us.  We are,” as Bukowski’s poem says, “born into this.”

Legendary pain, legendary fatalism and legendary self-sacrifice. The Polish soul is muted in Frederick’s  book. Yet opaqueness suits  Ziggy Czarnecki who’s a retiring guy. Furthermore, it was a fellow Polack from the parish  who betrayed Ziggy’s numbers running biz in the 1950’s. In as much as it happened at the apex of Zig’s life, his obsession with the snitching Pole is  A-1 legit. The treacherous Przybylski, and not the treacherous “other”,  is the proper focus of Ziggy’s  desiderata.

Still, as Ziggy blows off the stink on his road trip to find Przybylski, there could’ve been more odors from the bowels of the race. It’s not enough to pass booze, cigarettes, kielbasa and pierogis under the reader’s nose. There could’ve been more inner-fumes released as Ziggy openned his heart, like a flower, to the Western panorama with its uplifting spaciousness. He could’ve delicately questioned the American Dream with hostile Blacks in Detroit and an all too civil cuckold son in California. At least Frederick creates  the polarities of Black deprivation and White satiation. But not enough is said about the “progress” of Ziggy’s son from an inbred  Detroit Polack to an outbred Boobus Americanus in southern California. Ziggy mourns his debased Old World lineage. Then, at the moment of resolve, he sighs with the shrug of eternity.

The good news is that Ziggy is 100% through making value judgements on others. The bad news is that he’s  forfeited his own existential criteria as a goddamn Detroit Polack for making value judgements on anything.  He’s a husk filled with human sympathy and a pater-familias with no remnant of gonads. I must admit that  it captures a type.

Frederick does a masterful job with Ziggy’s daughter-in-law. The hot-wife of his nice and soapy son.  Her brisk modern character is fueled by her lust to be the best. To live fully. To have cinematic sweep in L.A.  She’s the modern antithesis of  Ziggy’s rustic Polish wife.  Colorless and bouyant as the moon, Ziggy’s wife is his rock. She casts a merciful light across his dim soulscape. It’s a delicate view.  Frederick does a lovely job with the otherwise faithless Ziggy, post-Catholic and post-redemption, turning in desperation to his timeless bride. Ziggy reveres the always adapting but never changing woman he married. The love is raw. It’s true to his birth. It “stinks” of a residual Catholic piety and fidelity that Ziggy’s can’t escape.  All in all, homesickness is the core ferment underneath the racing quest to find Przybylski.

It’s a good book.  It’s written with a gentleman’s reserve.  But the formality that is its strength is its weakness.  As a proper liberal, Frederick writes too much as a  Universal Human Being and not enough as a goddamned  Detroit Polack.  This is my #1 complaint.

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