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"...a deuce instead of an ace..."

From James T. Farrell's Judgment Day, the final volume of the Studs Lonigan trilogy:

How often in a fellow's life just one thing goes wrong, and then that guy is through and doesn't come back! One wild, accidental punch below the belt or on the chin. Some little thing, getting too drunk and going to a party and then...If he'd met some girl that night, taken her to a room, slept with her, his life would have been different, and he'd have woke up with her instead of in a hospital. Just such things that gave a guy a deuce instead of an ace. And he'd been chump enough to let those things happen, so here he was. Or was it that he was just the kind of a guy who couldn't take it? He fought the question out of his mind, told himself that the harder the breaks, the more he had to fight, and the sweeter it would be coming through.

Studs often has flashes of insight like this ("he'd been chump enough to let those things happen"), but he just as soon rationalizes away his shortcomings, blaming his travails on anyone or anything other than himself. And despite that last vow to fight through the hard breaks, he is always passive, just letting things happen to him. As he reflects ten pages later:

He was still where he had always been. Just hoping.

He still hasn't learned the lesson that just hoping, without decisively acting, gets you nowhere. And I doubt he ever will. And I suspect that the "judgment" suggested in the title won't be gentle with him.

July 24, 2014 in Books | Permalink

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