Rock ‘n’ rage

Jaysis. What a weekend. First we lose Chuck Berry and then Jimmy Breslin.

Berry remains on tour extraterrestrially — “Johnny B. Goode” is on golden records aboard the Voyager I and II spacecraft, launched in 1977.

One of my favorite Breslin books is “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”  What could I tell you? There are so many keepers in there, like this graf:

The Baccala Family runs all organized crime in Brooklyn. The gang has been in Brooklyn longer than the Ferris Wheel at Coney Island. It was formed in 1890 under the leadership of Raymond the Wolf. He ate babies. Raymond the Wolf passed away one night from natural causes: his heart stopped beating when three men who slipped into his bedroom stuck knives in it. Joe the Wop, who had sent the three men, took over the mob. Joe the Wop shot nuns. A year later he dropped dead while being strangled.

I didn’t know this quote until I read it in his obit, but it works for me, too:

“Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

I’ve never raged as well as Breslin or Berry, but I keep on trying. If only they hadn’t set the bar so damn’ high.

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9 Responses to “Rock ‘n’ rage”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    The band at the source just keeps getting better. Carl Sagan was smart to put Messrs. Berry and Johnson on that gold record.

  2. Steve O Says:

    Is it just me, or are all of the writer’s writers fleeing the building quickly?

    There are still people cranking out Important Works. And there’s always a new Gone Girl on the Train With the Tattoo.

    But guys like Breslin … every sentence was a shot and a chaser.

    If a picture is worth a thousand words, Breslin could get the job done in 25, 30 maybe.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      So many great lines in “Gang.” Another fave: “Baccala was of the opinion that Kid Sally Palumbo couldn’t run a gas station at a profit even if he stole the customers’ cars.”

      And: “The only thing not for sale in the 91st Precinct is the captain’s bowling trophy.”

      And: “He dropped veiled hints: ‘You could be dead in a bomb accident.'”

      I used to have a copy of “World Without End, Amen” around here somewhere, but I can’t find it.

      Some of his language recalls Ring Lardner, another one of the greats. Also, and too, Damon Runyon. Boy, if anyone’s doing that kind of work these days, other than Charlie Pierce, I’m not hearing about it.

  3. Dale Says:

    Breslin had the chops to call out bullshit. I don’t know how much he shoveled in his time here, but anyone attempting to pick up the flag will need a front end loader.

  4. Herb in NH Says:

    Patrick, I always knew you were a man of exquisite taste and high intellectual aims, and your fondness for “The Gang….” narks it! I stumbled across it many moons ago, and do a devotional reading every couple of years. It still provokes unseemly giggling. So much funny shit in one little book.

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