One of my favorite new bands is Oakley Hall, so I just thought I’d mention the group is named after a novelist. The only reason I read the 1958 novel “Warlock” by Oakley Hall is that I’d read somewhere it is one of Thomas Pynchon’s favorite books. I believe it’s the only real Western novel I’ve ever read, so I’m not really qualified to say how it compares with the classic genre books by the likes of Louis L’Amour or more recent novels by Larry McMurtry. But I did think it was excellent, leaning towards historical realism in a “Deadwood” sort of way.
When I read “Warlock,” one particular passage near the end of the book struck me as poetic and devastating. I’ve reread it a number of times. The character Henry Holmes Goodpasture, who narrates some of the chapters in “Warlock,” takes a despairing look at the tragic events that have transpired:
Is not the history of the world no more than a record of violence and death cut in stone? It is a terrible, lonely, loveless thing to know it and see … that the only justification is in the attempt, not in the achievement, for there is no achievement; to know that each day may dawn fair or fairer than the last, and end as horribly wretched or more. Can those things that drive men to their ends be ever stilled, or will they only thrive and grow and yet more hideously clash one against the other so long as man himself is not stilled? Can I look out at these cold stars in this black sky and believe in my heart of hearts that it was this sky that hung over Bethlehem, and that a star such as these stars glittered there to raise men’s hearts to false hopes forever?
This is the sky of Gethsemane, and that of Bethlehem has vanished with its star.