[EDITOR’S NOTE: USA Today reporter Bob Minzesheimer was assigned to review David Brinkley’s The Great Deluge. The published draft has an extremely strange and disconcerting paragraph pertaining to gumbo. Return of the Reluctant has obtained Minzesheimer’s original draft of the review, demonstrating just what kind of job the USA Today editors had on their hands.]
My name is Bob Minzesheimer and I am here to tell you that I like gumbo. Real gumbo. Not the pantywaist gumbo that they try to pass off in yuppie restaurants, but the real shit in New Orleans. Pre-Katrina.
If you ask me, the tsunami’s biggest tragedy was the sudden surcease in gumbo making. I’ve always thought New Orleans was a city that never slept. Forget the fact that the streets were flooded and that people were angry. No disaster should prevent a good batch of gumbo from being made, distributed and consumed. Why, for example, has Mayor Ray Nagin remained so silent on the gumbo question? Surely, Brinkley could have devoted a chapter to this seminal issue.
As we all know, real men eat real gumbo. Real men also read real books and review real books while they’re eating real gumbo or thinking about eating real gumbo. Gumbo is of paramount importance when assessing a book’s worth or determining the level of scholarship. David Brinkley, I suspect, is a gumbo fan. But he is not a real gumbo fan. And by real, I think you know what I mean.
This gumbo stance is problematic on several levels. His book cannot succeed until he slaps down the American Express on the table and pays at least $60 for a good bowl of gumbo. But I suspect he fears gumbo. No journalist should fear gumbo. Brinkley’s fear is evident on page 126 of his new book, The Great Deluge, where he writes:
Gumbo was the last thing on Nagin’s mind. As the bodies piled up, the gumbo stopped.
This, of course, is a preposterous assertion. For even in the face of government neglect, there is always room for gumbo. Real gumbo. Gumbo makes things better. If FEMA had fed the dehydrated Katrina survivors some gumbo, then nobody would be pointing fingers at Michael Brown.
I am a real man. I am also a real journalist. And I am momentarily a real book reviewer. But more importantly, I am the world’s foremost authority on gumbo. You may not know this, but I took a correspondence course and became a gumbo authority. Not even my wife knows this. I keep my gumbo expertise a secret from my friends and peers. I’ve kept quiet for too long. You, the devoted readers of USA Today, are the first to know.
I have been assigned to read this damn Brinkley book and I can’t stop thinking of gumbo. Many people have died and have had their lives uprooted. Such pedantic issues as government incompetence and unnecessary deaths mean nothing in the great scheme of things, particularly when gumbo is involved.
There is something about Brinkley’s face that makes me pine for gumbo. Surely I am not the only one who feels this way after staring at the author photograph. The cruel people at USA Today don’t pay me enough to buy real gumbo and chances are that you, the mere USA Today reader, haven’t experienced real gumbo.
So let’s stop all this discussion of who was right and who was wrong. Who needs more politics when there’s real gumbo to masticate upon? Let’s prevent Brinkley from writing more books. Come to my two-bedroom house anytime and let me show you that real gumbo makes the world go round.
© 2006, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.