with you one of my favorite pieces of prose from local author Whitney Terrell’s debut novel, The Huntsman, which I’m re-reading. This excerpt is a description of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Founder’s Ball:
The Founders Ball, ostensibly a benefit for the museum, was in fact the sanctioned and publicly celebrated attempt on the part of white society to repeal time, an effort both mythic and bizarre in scale. The fathers of the debutantes would stand with red sashes across their tuxedos amid suits of armor and the violent crests of medieval fiefdoms in the museum’s main hall, and old women raised from hospital beds and homes for the infirm would file in wearing lace, their faces painted and their eyes glittering with the feverish excitement of hunters scenting again the blood and powder of the field. There would be the laconic young men, drunk and in rut, wearing their grandfathers’ wool tails and satin gloves that smelled of mothballs, understanding like the old women that the event was a ritual in blood, and that when the fathers presented their daughters to the city, they were really offering up their flesh to them. He did not need to tell Clyde that the Founders Ball had never had a debutante who was black, nor that for several years the organizing committee had sent the city’s first black mayor an invitation without embarrassment (by tradition, it was the mayor who opened the event), accepting his unequivocal refusal as a measure of his tact. Everybody knew this, just as everybody knew that Thornton Sayers wrote a yearly essay in the Star deploring the provincialism of the event, which he always then attended anyway.
Good stuff, no? I met and spoke withÂ Whitney at a writers’ conferenceÂ a few years back. He was amiable, encouragingÂ and full of fire at having discovered the writing of Hubert Selby, Jr.Â I didn’t ask him about The Huntsman, so I don’t know whether there is or was a Founders Ball (I imagine so) but that’s not theÂ point. There really isn’t a point to why I wanted you to read this passage other than I think it’s well-rendered, locally situated and regarding a topic that I rarely see discussed when reading aboutÂ KC’s development.
TKC will talk you blue in the face about the racial divisions in KC. (Red in the face if you swing that way.) Sometimes I wonder if it wears him out, being so critical yet staying optimistic about the possibilities for our city. (Yes, he is an optimist – otherwise he wouldn’t bother.) So, there ya’ go. A plug for TKC via Whitney Terrell. I hope neither minds.