Wednesday, June 21, 2017

the last book I ever read (Denis Johnson's Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond, excerpt ten)

from Seek: Reports from the Edges of America & Beyond by Denis Johnson:

As we gathered miscellaneous half-rotten sticks for firewood, our scoutmaster instructed us in the ancient incendiary arts. Our scoutmaster frightened me. I think his name was Jerry, a bald, spectacled figure who looked as if he’d been only recently let out of a Japanese prison camp; but this impression was wrong; he’d been let out some seventeen years before. Like many Euros who’ve lived for decades in the tropics, he’d lost a lot of his body hair and all of his fat and seemed fabricated out of cords and paper. He regarded those days of captivity and torture at the nads of his enemies as the primary character-building experience of his life, and he was bent on duplicating it, in every way possible, for his Scouts. He was enthusiastic about this opportunity. The other boys took Jerry’s attitude in stride, as far as I could tell.

The Scouts aim to build character and impart a wilderness savoir-faire with Native American overtones that would meld the Lone Ranger and Tonto into one small young self-sufficient good guy. The atmosphere on this campout was one of military discipline constantly marred by sobs and outbursts, because the Scouts were children, after all.

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