Wednesday, November 9, 2011


It does not happen very often that when you go to your local butcher, you stumble into a book in a cage.
To be honest it was not exactly stumbling;
BB Ranch Butcher just opened next door to Lamplight Books and every morning, on my way to insert the keys into the doors of perception, knowledge and tales, I would see Upton Sinclair 's The Jungle, caged up on the meat counter, next to beef jerky and the pork ribs.
One does not need to have read the book to understand the intended reference, however Curiosity elbowed me between my ribs to address William the butcher on this matter and to my " nice display" he unraveled his story.
And Curiosity never fails to reward.
William is a middle aged man, in his mid fifties; he is a butcher, stout and strong, intense blue eyes that really see you when he is talking to you because he has nothing to hide, because he does not pretend.
William has never read an entire book cover to cover in his entire life, he candidly tells me, he is a street person, a people person. Until one day a friend hands him The Jungle and he reads the entire book and he weeps at times and this book became partially responsible for the way he sees and approaches his job.
He will never forget, he carries on, the image of the steam coming out of the slaughtered animals fogging the slaughtering house of a freezing Chicago in the middle of an early 1900's winter season. He will always remember the description of the workers chopping chunks of the animals' frozen blood, off of each others ankles and taking the chunks home for cooking purposes.
As The Jungle stands in front of the next customer who may or may not notice it or may or may not know it, William is cutting and serving meat that he made sure belonged to animals properly raised by local farmers and handled by workers fairly treated, because that is his belief.
Reading pieces and bits about Sinclair 's book, I did stumble on an article published in occasion of its 100 years anniversary (1906-2006) on Mother Jones Magazine. The article quotes the author's first reaction to the political effect that the book had when published, "I aimed at the public's heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach", and, Curiosity again, after the stumbling inevitably came the landing and so I landed on the comment of an erudite reader who pointed out the fact that the quote was actually being borrowed directly from Karl Marx 's Capital, in the chapter describing the report of a royal commissioner on the condition of the journeymen bakers of London. Books are like that: they are the only place where time and space do not matter.
If there ever was a meeting point between meat, poetry and philosophy I believe it can be found in William the butcher.


  1. William è una bella figura di macellaio del Pike Place Market di Seattle e Sinclair fu uno scrittore dagli ideali socialisti, che diede voce alla condizione di schiavitù salariale dei lavoratori del mercato del bestiame di Chicago.
    Un coup de foudre, per il primo, l’incontro con il romanziere.
    Ora però curiosità ne nasce.
    Dopo la giungla, William ha compiuto altre esplorazioni o s’è fermato lì?
    Come se, nel rigore della stagione invernale, il vapore che fuoriesce dalle carcasse appena macellate facesse da velo alla capacità di guardare oltre.
    E’ tuo vicino di casa, mi auguro che venga a trovarti spesso, alla ricerca di nuovi tesori.

  2. volevo suggerirgli il Capitale di Marx, tu che dici?

  3. Cielo! Non ti sembra una partenza a tutto gas?
    Suggerisco un avvio soft, magari un titolo a tema come “ The Butcher’s wife “ di Li Ang , anche se per la verità la trama ha risvolti non favorevoli alla sua categoria.
    Oppure qualcosa che lo faccia riflettere sull’etica vegetariana e i diritti degli animali, tipo “ The Lives of Animals ” di J. M. Coetzee.
    Se poi volessi mandarlo in crisi, niente di più impattante del saggio di Jeremy Rifkin: “Beyond Beef: The Rise and Fall of the Cattle Culture “.
    Però non vorrei ti facessi un nemico, ha pur sempre il coltello dalla parte del manico.