The first book I finished this month is Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather”. I have seen the first movie, but as every bibliophile know, there’s nothing like reading the book.
As I type this, the much publicized President Duterte’s “War on Drugs” is going on in the Philippines, and the crackdown on the druglords has intensified ever since The Punisher has risen to power (More on druglords later, I guess, coz the third book on my reading list this month is Mark Bowden’s “Killing Pablo”). He even has a diagram of the hierarchy of drug personalities involved. How is this connected to “The Godfather”? Two words – ORGANIZED CRIME. Perhaps another set just as apt, that got the story rolling- NARCOTICS.
This is what has once more challenged the peaceful and organized rule of Don Vito Corleone. An upcoming underboss named Virgil Sollozo has offered the Don financial rewards in exchange for protection in his new drug business. The Don politely declined, saying “… if I were a part of it, could damage my other interests.” He also quoted his friends from high places. “They would not be so friendly if my business were narcotics instead of gambling. They think gambling is something like liquor, a harmless vice, and they think narcotics is dirty business. No, don’t protest. I’m telling you their thoughts, not mine. How a man makes his living is not my concern.”And we all know what happens next: he makes an attempt at the Don’s life; murders Luca Brasi and other buttons. Michael Corleone retaliates and a full scale war known as the Five Families War of 1946 ensues (and we learn Sicilian idioms like “go to the mattresses”and “sleep on the bottom of the ocean”). Soon, Don Vito’s era as the boss ends, and Michael takes over the family business, and does his best to make the family legal.
Here are my favorite bits from the book:
On family. “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family, can never be a real man.”
On goodness. “He helped them all, Not only that, he helped them with goodwill, with encouraging words to take the bitter sting out of the charity he gave them.” But let me just note that Vito is also a businessman, and he knows himself. “[ all that he does] of course was not pure Christian charity. Not his best friends would have called Don Corleone a saint from heaven. There was some self-interest in this generosity.”
On power and responsibility. Michael, the next Don, said the following words in an exchange with his future wife Kay Adams: “My father is a businessman trying to provide for his wife and children and those friends he might need someday in time of trouble. He doesn’t accept the rules of society we live in because those rules would’ve condemned him to a life not suitable to a man like himself, a man of extraordinary force and character… But his ultimate aim is to enter that society with a certain power..”
Everything is personal. Yep. Damn straight. Stop saying it’s only business, not personal (Walang personalan, trabaho lang. Heeeeeeeey is this the literal translation of the famous quote??) Michael said the following when they were planning to execute Sollozo: “Tom, don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit a man has to eat everyday of his life is personal. They call it business, OK. But it’s personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don.My old Man. The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That’s what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of the sparrow or however the hell it goes. Right? And you know something? Accidents don’t happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.” (Phew, that was loooooong!)
Hoping to get ahold of Puzo’s The Sicillian!
Meanwhile, time for me to go watch the rest of the trilogy! 😀