Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jujitsu for Christ

Dear Jack Butler,

Rothrock Café at the Lawson McGhee Library in Knoxville was a poor excuse for a place to sit. It didn’t even have proper vending machines. So I for one was ecstatic when the Friends of the Library decided to put the space to better use. Now, I invent excuses each day to escape my dungeon of an office and drop by the café-turned-used-book store to grab up the latest offcast by some donnish library friend.

So far I’ve snagged a few good ones, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, a nice volume of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood to send to one of my best friends of all time, Camus’ The Stranger, and even a copy of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. But today, I smiled broadly when, on the Religious Books shelf I saw your book, slanted and gleaming between, Gigi, a bio about Billy Graham’s daughter, Gigi Graham Tchividjian (Say it three times fast!), and a pock-marked copy of something by Harold Kushner about overcoming disappointments.

It was Jujitsu for Christ. Though it, no doubt, has 200,000 leafs to its credit, this ’86 Penguin paperback was waxed and polished and in near mint condition, with the license plate, ISBN 0 14 01.0374 0.

At any rate, I, as a person born in January with snow boots on, was drawn to the cover of this particular model of Jujitsu that boasted a review from the revered New York Times that promised,

“Anyone who does not like this novel is probably a Brie-chewing Yankee sapsucker who wouldn’t know a lynch mob from a hootenanny.”
But Jack, I love Brie! And hootenanny? By the way another NY Times review, not featured on the cover has said:

"JUJITSU FOR CHRIST, by Jack Butler. This first novel is named after a fictitious studio opened in 1961 by a white martial arts instructor to teach physical and spiritual discipline to blacks in Jackson, Miss. In 1986, Martin Kirby said here that the book is 'an antiracist satire, served up with a lot of sex and some Swiftian scatology.'"

What does Swiftian scatology mean, really?

But, I do have to say, that your book adds to my understanding of the Southern landscape of a time when I was growing up in the Northern landscape and saw certain action only on newsreels, not believing, quite, that what I saw, was happening. I guess everyone back then was off kilter. The times, they, were a changing, and no one likes that.

Well, at any rate, you told me you were working on a new novel, set in other parts of the globe. I'll look forward to going there when it's ready for visitors.




Prof Fury said...

Hurray for great and unexpected used bookstore finds! I wonder how many other used copies of J4C are tucked away in the religion section of bookstores . . .

brd said...

Another important section to always check out is large print. You never know what you might find.

brd said...

Jack, it was good to hear that the new book is off to the publisher and that much closer to our own personal bookshelves and bedside tables.

Anne G G said...

Hee . . . Swiftian scatology. It's the best kind. I hope the book delivered on that promise.

brd said...

Googlian research turned cyclic on me. When I searched Swiftian Scatology, I turned up Letters and Surveys, a compliment on one hand, but no help. One other hit was a bit more helpful.

Logical Positivism, Jonathon Swift, and Neurosis

"One might think of God as a great practical joker. S/he creates a species that considers it to inhabit an area between god and animal. Humans then seek to repress the animal side of its nature and to inflate the god like part of its nature, its aspect that is at various situations is consider as soul, or consciousness, or mind.

"Jonathan Swift is perhaps the most famous of authors to parody the human eccentric behavior in attempting to repress recognition of our animal body. If there is a God s/he must be a very witty practical joker. Can you imagine the delight s/he must enjoy while observing humans contending with the problems relating to the scattering of the love apparatus among the eliminating portals of the human body?"