I wanted to share

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 with Whitney at a writers’ conference a few years back. He was amiable, encouraging and full of fire at having discovered the writing of Hubert Selby, Jr. 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 the  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 about 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.

I wanted to share

3 thoughts on “I wanted to share

  1. Huntsman was a book I really wanted to like. I actually have fonder memories of the situation in which I read it than actually reading it. It was when I was a courier, driving all over the metro area, so I was each day able to see, or sometimes even go in and experience, the locations being discussed. I don’t know, maybe I should re-read it as well, but I found the book to be a bit of a scattered mess plot-wise.

    The Founders Ball is for reals, though. I had a former boss whose baseball player dad presented her there. I’ve been at the museum a couple times when they were setting up for it, too. To top it off, I actually made two deliveries for the ball, one to the museum itself, with some mystery in a box, and the other was taking some broad’s dress to her at the Star.


  2. Thanks for the mention my man. Also I can only assume that your getting your reading list together for your upcoming visit to the maternity ward. Go little J!!!


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