Jimmy Breslin versus France

I’ve been digressing from the main purpose of this blog lately to indulge my latest hobby, bringing peace to the Middle East. I apologize. Back to great reads for a quarter, and you can’t miss if you buy a book by Jimmy Breslin.

I consider Table Money the best American novel I have ever read, just beating out All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren and Continental Drift by Russell Banks. And all Breslin’s books are great reads. It’s a point of honor with him. He will not waste your time.

So last Saturday I was on my way to tag sales in Montague and Leverett when I saw some tables of books set out with nobody there, just a jar. A bunch of beautiful picture books of the Kennedys. I should have bought them all. The price was right. But I have a few books as it is and I often have to make painful choices. I picked out four.

There was also a collection of Breslin’s columns, The World According to Breslin, which I had to have, but I didn’t have the right change. I tried to find somebody at the house, but no luck, just a couple of dogs inside barking ferociously. I had to drive a half a mile and get the right change and go back, but it was all worth it. Here’s a sample:

Breslin is speaking up for the people in Howard Beach who don’t want the Concorde to land at Kennedy Airport because it makes too much noise. The French say that it makes no more noise than an American-made plane, and these objections are a ruse to exclude European-made aircraft.

Breslin takes umbrage with a comment by the French president about the residents of Howard Beach and books passage on the QE2 to take up the matter in person. In Cherbourg he tells reporters that he is challenging President d’Estaing to a duel.

“How do you dare such a thing as to challenge our president?” an announcer shrieked.

“He insulted me. I shall avenge these insults.”

“You would duel our president?”

“And win.” I said.

President d’Estaing declines to meet with him or speak with him or duel with him, but Breslin goes to the National Assembly where there’s a marble bar with a brass rail and six bartenders “to serve the the politicians who came off the Assemblee floor to wash the harangue from their throats.”

Breslin is in his element, and one might expect more of him here. As it happens he engages in a puerile exchange with a French deputy, a guy who represents the district where the Concorde is manufactured. Still it’s funny:

The interpreter said, “He says that a friendship binds France and the United States. It is of vital importance to both of us. It is not in the interest of the United States to tarnish the image of Franco-American cooperation.”

I said to the interpreter, “Tell him that a study at Queens College shows that the noise of the Concorde makes people impotent.”

M. Raymond’s eyes widened as he listened to this. His voice barked. “He says he is most certainly not impotent,” the interpreter said.

“Tell him to prove it,” I said.

As the interpreter spoke to him again, M. Raymond’s mouth opened. The interpreter said to me, “Not with you.” Then M. Raymond calls out something and raises two fingers.

The interpreter said, “He said he will show you that he is not impotent from the Concorde going over his head, that you are to get him two Blue Bell Girls from the Lido and he will show you.”