This Is Not Why We Write, But . . .
Updated: Jan 29, 2021
By Suzanne Hudson with John Williams
Truly, for those of us who are pretty hard core about why we do this crazy thing called writing, it’s just that, as my husband Joe Formichella often says, we can’t NOT write. In fact, Joe says, if you CAN not write, then you probably should.
No, we aren’t looking for awards, flattering words in Publishers Weekly, Facebook “likes,” Amazon reviews that are likely marshaled from friends and family, movie deals from the lying LA lizards, fawning fans, publicity, pushy PR pretenders, future bigger and better publishers, etc. All nice stuff, to be sure, but you find out pretty quickly it doesn’t really have much to do with writing. It is all far too often determined by how much you want to pay to play. Thanks, but no thanks. And if you are only in this for fame or money or praise or the silver screen, well, then you are probably a money-grubbin’ business ho, and it is you who are complicit in the f*#ked-upedness of the literary world.
But still . . . and on the other hand . . .
When, out of the blue clear sky, someone “gets” you, appreciates your work, unsolicited, unbribed, with sincerity and genuine feeling, well, we gotta admit it’s a thing. And when I discovered that fellow author John Williams had posted a lengthy review, on Amazon, with an academic bent, well, admit I went all to mush. All I can say is thank you, John, for taking the time to express your thoughts, for your generosity, for “getting” these, as you say, “whackadoodle people” of mine, for “getting” me. Just, thank you.
Here are John’s kind words . . .
The Fall of the Nixon Administration by Suzanne Hudson
Review by John Williams, retired, LaGrange College, GA, English Dept.
Suzanne Hudson has always been a writer with a bite. Fortunately, that bite is sharper than ever in her latest romp through a cast of Southern—though, as usual, universal—characters in Pollard, not far from Cantonment, not far from Pensacola. These folks are familiar, but rendered by Hudson with great vitality and fun. The Nixon administration of the title is both a henhouse of beloved chickens bearing the names Haldeman, Colson, and so forth, who do “fall” in the novel’s climax—and the real thing that bites the dust at about the same time. The novel is set in the summer of 1974 and ends with Tricky Dick’s resignation in August, but is not really a political novel, except as it serves as a mirror to our own time. It is really something more like a fable.
The story is told in colorful first-person, with rotating points of view of the key women. We meet the surviving mother Maureen (“Mimi”) and daughter Cecilia (“CeCe”) of the prominent Calhoun family of Pollard. Mimi is a widow, engaged in a late-stage rejuvenation of her love life, and CeCe, married to the effeminate Winston, is trying to hold on to some appearance of propriety befitting their high social status. Lindia is the wise and loving “help,” bound for a rejuvenation of her own, and Marlayna a trailer gal trying to win back the novel’s hero, Vietnam vet and sexual dynamo Will Luckie. The problem is, Will has taken up with Mimi, providing for her what he provides for every character in the book: a million megavolts of Dionysian energy.
Yes, the book is about sex, but for all the graphic language and subject matter (be warned) not sex in its prurient but in its redemptive sense. You could say CeCe, locked in her repressed prudery, is the book’s villain, but the villain is really the social compact that forces us to deny our true nature. Think D. H. Lawrence. Everybody is attracted to Will (even CeCe, in spite of herself), because he brings what we all crave: an awakening of our deepest nature. Think Kate Chopin. He is Dionysus or Eros or Priapus, and what is godlike about him, for all his crudity, is his desire to share his joy with everything. And I didn’t say everybody.
Besides repression of libido, the other great evil of the novel is false religion. As always, CeCe has it all wrong, and Lindia has it all right. For Lindia, “There’s them that dwell on the hallelujah and them that dwell on the hell fire.” As Mimi learns, “Lindia insists that regret, along with every other dark emotion—resentment, jealousy, and the like—has no place in one’s head or heart. She equates dark emotions with a betrayal of Christ”—a truth Mimi recognizes so clearly it leads her to stop attending church. To CeCe’s outrage, of course. How will it look?
Our current political nightmare seems unprecedented, apocalyptic, and maybe we are nearing a tipping point, but we’ve been here before. This country actually did descend into a Civil War, remember. Social tensions exploded in the sixties. The forces operating in American society today are the same ones that have been here all along, even if they do seem more reckless, bitter, and desperate today. Andrew Johnson tried to impede the victors’ program of Reconstruction for the South, as though the only thing the war had accomplished was to get rid of the word slavery. Nixon was an unsavory character surrounded by unsavory characters who got caught trying to cover his ass. Clinton brought too much libido into the White House, and too little shame and decency. From what seems the relative innocence of 1974, Lindia, who writes letters to her long-dead husband Henry, at least gives Nixon credit “for ending the longest war we ever fought, that Vietnam mess.” And adds: “I don’t reckon there will ever be a war to go longer that what that one did. I expect we took a lesson from it, don’t you?”
Later, she observes: “I’ll bet we can’t even imagine how things will be, when the next new century comes. I know one thing, though. These United States will never have to suffer any kind of a president that would sink to dirty deeds, and Nixon is the proof. And we are blessed to never have to be at the mercy of some dictator or Hitler type fascist.”
Political commentary enough.
There are plenty of Lindias out there, thank God, people who hold in their hearts a beautiful conception of the value of the human spirit. We need them.
Thank you, Suzanne, for bringing her to life, for having the comic acumen to know that the boar trying to mate with the propane tank scene could only have been narrated by CeCe, and for understanding and voicing all these wackadoodle people and giving us a rollicking yarn.
With a bite.
Image: Cover art by the amazing JD Crowe, for the comic novel The Fall of the Nixon Administration