Friday, January 28, 2005
Anyone interested in a gripping read should check out Cockfighter by Charles Willeford, author of Miami Blues (and subject of a recent piece in the WaPo by Jonathan Yardley). This suspenseful pulp follows the ambitions of Frank Mansfield, who is in pursuit of the Southern Conference Cockfighter of the Year award, and follows him from the selection and training of his fighting cock down the bloody path of Florida tournaments leading to the championship. It is a harsh and fascinating world Frank travels in, made all the more weird by the fact that he has taken a vow of silence, as Yardley describes:
Everyone else thinks there's something physically or emotionally wrong with him. He becomes known as "silent Frank," responding to others with gestures, writing out questions or instructions in longhand, making such a good show of it that everyone assumes he simply cannot speak. To his surprise and irritation, he finds himself "on the receiving end of personal confidences and long sad stories." He says:
"The man who is unable to talk back is at the mercy of these people. He is like an inexperienced priest who listens tolerantly to the first simple confessions of impure thoughts, and then listens with increasing horror as the sins mount, one outdoing the other until he is shocked into dumbness. And, of course, the sinner takes advantage of a man's credulousness, loading ever greater sins upon him to see how far he can really go now that he has found a trapped listener who is unable to stop him. My ears had been battered by the outpourings of troubles, tribulations, aspirations and the affairs of broken hearts for two years and seven months. Only by being rude enough to leave the scene had I evaded some of my confessors."
Cockfighter is, of course, a work of fiction. For those interested in following the actual sport as it exists today, I recommend you click through to http://www.pitmaster.com/, which bills itself as "the most visited Gamefowl site on the internet!" The site includes just about everything you might want, including historic strains, a gamefowl glossary, nutritional tips, a champions photo gallery, and of course cockfighting merchandise for sale. Enjoy!
UPDATED: To add a couple of links.
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