Sunday, August 19, 2012
In GQ this month is an excerpt of a book about Joe Paterno by Joe Posnanski ("Joe Paterno's Last Season" in GQ) that totally rips your heart out. In this media age where scandal becomes pablum for the baby-masses, Posnanski's excerpt does something to your system: real feeling gets a chance at the tap-dance, and when that happens suddenly the world is askew. In the midst of writing Paterno's authorized biography, Posnanski had access to the interior of Paterno's psyche and environment during the sturm and drang of last winter, when indictments were being handed out to Penn State elite concerning their willful ignorance when it came to pedophilia. In other words, right when the Sandusky shit hits the fan, we are granted access to the sorrow and lack of pity as Papa Joe and his wife and kids and grandkids get put through the mill by media and politicians and more crushingly the members of the Penn State Board of Directors. The narration is stone-cold realism. Paterno comes across as a completely lost soul, wandering through the Museum of Himself his life has become. Think King Lear with nothing to hand over to his descendants, quadrupling the tragedy and also making it seem absurdly unfair, even though Paterno probably did ignore evil. It's as if Sandusky's actions polluted an entire universe, and got in through the Paterno home's pipes and vents. At one point, Paterno is sobbing the day after his firing, walking around that modest Happy Valley home. It makes you realize how fragile and fleeting everything is. That's a cliche of course, but when it's conveyed in the flesh it alters the way you take everything in. At 86, Paterno's whole world is wiped away, deservedly so perhaps, but Posnanki's writing doesn't pontificate -- just gives us a portrait of brokenness so astute and sad you marvel at how riotously and unassailably cruel fate is.