Read The Earl of Louisiana by A.J. Liebling T. Harry Williams Online


In the summer of 1959, A. J. Liebling, veteran writer for the New Yorker, came to Louisiana to cover a series of bizarre events which began when Governor Earl K. Long was committed to a mental institution. Captivated by his subject, Liebling remained to write the fascinating yet tragic story of Uncle Earl's final year in politics. First published in 1961, The Earl of LouisIn the summer of 1959, A. J. Liebling, veteran writer for the New Yorker, came to Louisiana to cover a series of bizarre events which began when Governor Earl K. Long was committed to a mental institution. Captivated by his subject, Liebling remained to write the fascinating yet tragic story of Uncle Earl's final year in politics. First published in 1961, The Earl of Louisiana recreates a stormy era of Louisiana politics and captures the style and personality of one of the most colorful and paradoxical figures in the state's history. This new edition of the work includes a foreword by T. Harry Williams, Pulitzer prize-winning author of Huey Long: A Biography....

Title : The Earl of Louisiana
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ISBN : 9780807102039
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 252 Pages
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The Earl of Louisiana Reviews

  • Greg Brozeit
    2019-05-12 17:28

    “Longism” was the populist, pragmatic and corrupt political idea that dominated Louisiana politics from the mid 1920s through 1960. Established by Huey Long, whose assassination in 1935 prevented it from going national, and kept alive in Louisiana by his brother Earl, Longism did much to elevate the lives of poor people—while lining the pockets of well-connected elites—and made the state weirdly progressive in an era of reactionary dominance in the South.A.J. Liebling’s The Earl of Louisiana, chronicles the end of Longism through the story of the 1959 Louisiana governor’s election. It is arguably among the best accounts ever written about any episode of American political history. Liebling, the preeminent American political reporter of his era, made his reputation as a World War II correspondent. He also wrote about boxing and dining—his reports from Paris introduced American readers to French haute cuisine. His reporting on American and world politics as a staff writer for New Yorker magazine gave him the freedom to cover any story, anywhere in the world. In 1959, attracted by the story of Governor Earl Long, he chose Louisiana.Uncle Earl, as his supporters called him, had just gone through an bizarre odyssey: Committed to a federal mental institution in Texas by his wife, having his allies transfer him to a state facility in Louisiana, and finally, still as sitting governor, pulling strings to get himself released. His enemies took solace in the fact that his tenure would end within a year. Until the end of the 20th century, Louisiana governors could not succeed themselves and were required to sit out a term if they wanted to run again. Uncle Earl had finished the term of a resigned governor in 1939-1940, was elected in his own right from 1948-1952 and again for a third term that began in 1956 and would end in 1960. Or so everyone thought; Uncle Earl had something else in mind.After escaping the mental institutions, he announced that he would be candidate in 1959 for the term beginning 1960 and intended, if elected, to resign a day before taking office. After all, the Louisiana Constitution only stipulated that a governor could only not succeed himself. That piqued Liebling’s interest to find out more about the man and the state. As he soon learned, “Maneuvers like Earl’s scheme to succeed himself immediately enrage the Longs’ opponents because they never think of them first.”Liebling’s first stop was New Orleans to get a primer on Louisiana politics. When he met Larry Comiskey who, along with his brother Joe, controlled the Old Regulars, the Democratic machine that ran much of the city, he got a profound lesson on politics and patronage: “It’s better to get a hundred little jobs for a hundred little fellows dan one big one big job for a big fella, because den you got a hundred you can count on to work for ya, instead of one dat might likely cut your throat in da bargain.”Liebling’s real revelation, however, was that he really wasn’t in the United States. Instead, he had landed in the “the westernmost of the Arab states.” This was a place of tribal intrigue made up of complex, agile factions, political pashas and an Imam named Earl K. Long. It resembled Lebanon rather than anything he had seen in the United States. And the heat and humidity were much worse than the Middle East. There was New Orleans, where urban Catholicism mixed with a mélange of ethnicities clashed with the oil-based economy south of the city was run by authoritarian political bosses like Leander Perez, who used his wealth and iron hand to maintain his racist, rural fiefdom. Add Cajun areas in southwestern and south central Louisiana to the hard-line pro-segregation, Protestant areas of the north with the incessant poverty that characterized each region and parts of the Middle East seemed tame to Liebling.Elections in Louisiana are unique. Traditional party primaries didn’t choose candidates to face each other. Instead, in the state’s open primary system (then known as the rerun system) the top two candidates—if neither has 50 percent plus 1 of the vote—face each other in a runoff election. Originally this was done to make sure Republicans never had a chance. Today, with the changed political demographic of the South, it generally means Republicans drown out Democrats. The most recent election was the exception to the new rule. This added to the Middle Eastern flavor of building temporary, previously inconceivable alliances. In the past few years, some states have also adopted this system, further polarizing politics.When Long announced his intention to run, the major candidates each had their own personal histories with him to overcome. deLesseps “Chep” Morrison was a young, popular multi-term mayor of New Orleans who had lost to Uncle Earl in 1955. Jimmie Davis, a former governor from 1944-1948, was from Shreveport, the second largest city in the state in the northwest corner. This “singing governor” was famous for having penned the song “You Are My Sunshine” and spent a number of years since his term was up owning a music club in California that was suspected of being integrated! Willie Rainach was a state legislator from the northeast part of the state who, in addition to being a political boss, was a secret leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He made his reputation as chair of the legislature’s Committee on Segregation who championed legislation to disenfranchise the state’s blacks to prevent the “mongrelization” of whites’ purity. A legislative debate caused an exasperated Uncle Earl to remind Rainach, “you got to recognize that niggers is human beings.”Liebling traveled to central Louisiana to see Long for himself at a campaign rally. He got a taste of why Long had a devoted following rooted in populist rhetoric and deeds: “We got the finest roads, finest schools, finest hospitals in the country—yet there are rich men who complain. They are so tight you can hear ‘em squeak when they walk. They wouldn’t give a nickel to see a earthquake. They sit there swallowin’ hundred-dollar bills like a bullfrog swallows minnows—if you chunked them as many as they want they’d bust.”“Amen, Earl,” the old man said. “God have mercy on the poor people.”“Of course, I know many fine rich people,” the Governor said, perhaps thinking of his campaign contributors. “But most of them are like a rich old feller I know down in Plaquemines Parish, who died one night and never done nobody no good in his life, and yet, when the Devil come to get him, he took an appeal to St. Peter.“‘I done some good things on earth,’ he said. ‘Once, on a cold day in about 1913, I gave a blind man a nickel.’ St. Peter looked all through the records, and at last, on page four hundred and seventy-one, he found the entry. ‘That ain’t enough to make up for a misspent life,’ he said. ‘But, wait,’ the rich man says. ‘Now I remember, in 1922 I give five cents to a poor widow woman that had no carfare.’ St. Peter’s clerk checked the book again, and on page thirteen hundred and seventy-one, after pages and pages of this old stump-wormer loan-sharked the poor, he found the record of that nickel.“‘That ain’t neither enough,’ St. Peter said. But the mean old thing yelled, ‘Don’t, sentence me yet. In about 1931 I give a nickel to the Red Cross.’ The clerk found that entry, too. So he said to St. Peter, ‘Your Honor, what are we going to do with him?’”The crowd hung on Uncle Earl’s lips the way the bugs hovered in the light.“You know what St. Peter said?” The Governor, the only one in the courthouse square who knew the answer, asked. There was, naturally, no reply.“He said: ‘Give that man back his fifteen cents and tell him to go to Hell.’”He had the crowd with him now…In the days before media-driven politics, Liebling realized that he was in the presence of the last great political stump speaker.But the enemies of Longism couldn’t bear the prospect of another four years of Uncle Earl. “The Democratic State Committee had declined to receive his candidacy unless he resigned as Governor before September 15, the day on which entry fees were due.” This put Uncle Earl in a bad position. “If he resigned at once, in order to run, he would forfeit seven months of power and patronage, from September 15, 1959 to April 18, 1960, the day before the vestigial election. During that time the Lieutenant Governor would be Governor, free to fire all Earl’s appointees and put in his own, and to make all the deals that Earl would otherwise have the opportunity to make. More, an ex-Governor is in a less advantageous position to campaign than a Governor. Worse, the Federal people, all Republicans, were known to be hot on Earl’s trail with a mess of Income Tax charges.”Uncle Earl couldn’t afford to be out of power that long so he came up with a new idea. He recruited Jimmy Noe, an oil man who owned radio stations (WNOE still exists in New Orleans and KNOE is in Monroe) to run for governor with Uncle Earl on the same ticket for Lieutenant Governor. Although it was never said out loud, most people assumed that if elected, Noe would resign a day into his term to let Earl back into the Governor’s Mansion. But the factional support had shifted.Morrison led the primary vote, followed by Davis, Rainach and Noe. Uncle Earl finished a strong third in the Lieutenant Governor’s race although he received 60,000 more votes than Noe did for Governor. But it didn’t matter; the machinations to stay in office weren’t successful. Now tribal factions had to get what they could. Liebling: “The rerun system gives them a chance to salvage part of their losses. In a close race between the two top men, a candidate who finishes a good third can often turn a handsome profit. Even a man who finishes down the list can sometimes make a good thing of it if his votes include a particularly deliverable bloc—say a group of parishes where his family bank owns a mortgage on every farm. It is delightfully Middle Eastern.” Even Allen “Black Cat” Lacombe, who finished a distant seventh for Governor quickly endorsed Morrison because, as he told one of Liebling’s colleagues, “There is a job at the city jail I have my eye on.”When Noe and Uncle Earl failed to make the runoff, the strong finish by Rainach meant that Davis and Morrison would have to outdo each other as a defender of segregation. This inflamed the already course political campaign to become even more racist—something that Longism kept a lid on for decades. Huey Long......adopted a policy of speaking disrespectfully of Negroes in public to guard against being called a nigger lover, and giving them what they wanted under the table, to make sure they would vote for him. As the poorest Louisianans of all, they benefitted disproportionately from his welfare schemes; it would be a dull politician who would try to disenfranchise his own safest voters.Earl inherited and emphasized this policy, and Morrison, starting in New Orleans, where the Negro vote is important, competed for it. To be fair to both, Earl genuinely liked Negroes—for all I know, Huey did, too—while Morrison believes in their rights. Both were inevitablists and shrewd in the law.Morrison sees no chance of stemming the tide of Federal court decisions. He suffers under the disadvantage of living in the contemporary world, while the Perezes and Rainachs remain in the Jurassic. It was the gift of the Longs that they could straddle the intervening million years.As Liebling observed, “The result reminded me of one of those automobile accidents in which a driver, swatting at a wasp, loses control of his car and runs it into a bayou full of alligators. The sequel was to prove that the [New Orleans newspaper] Times-Picayune, in its eagerness to get rid of the Governor, had helped move Louisiana back into the class of Alabama.”Uncle Earl was still governor, but now he was being courted by two people he despised. Eventually, Rainach and Uncle Earl lined up behind Davis who won fairly easily against the hapless Morrison. A few months later, Uncle Earl decided to run for Congress to retake the seat that he felt was his family’s right. He campaigned as hard as he ever had, suffered a heart attack on Election Day and didn’t tell anyone about it. His heart gave out almost as soon as he was told he won. Liebling thought that the tragedy was heightened because Congress wouldn’t have had such an esteemed new member since the election of John Quincy Adams.Sadly, the Davis Administration pandered to his worst instincts and foreshadowed Nixon’s Southern Strategy and the politics of punitive resentment that characterizes much of today’s American conservative politics and policies. One of Davis’s first acts was to pass a bill to bar illegitimate children from receiving welfare benefits. When the state cut more than $7.5 million from the program, it also forfeited more than $22 million in federal matching funds. According to Liebling, “The net savings to the state of Louisiana…would be $1,340,000—a handsome return for starving 22,000 children to death.” The action led to worldwide outrage, even motivating some British communities to raise funds for starving children in Louisiana. Liebling saved his most outraged, prophetic and sarcastic prose for a commentary that is as contemporary today as the day it was written:Many unmarried mothers try, illegally, to get rid of their children before they are born, and letting them starve to death is a time-tested and, in Louisiana now, a state-sanctioned method of getting rid of them as soon after they are born as possible. It is better than abortion because it saves the mothers from committing a Mortal Sin, and better than letting the children live because they would grow up in unsuitable surroundings and some might eventually become members of the NAACP. The Louisiana law is a promising demographic innovation in the Western world…Fifty-five-plus years later, the lid that hid most public racism in Louisiana, the South, and the rest of the United States the has been removed—or more to the point, Liebling’s observation that “Any Southerner knows that ‘minority’ is the plural of ‘nigger’” is as true today as when he wrote it; perhaps truer since the election of President Barack Obama. In the end, Liebling “realized that (Uncle Earl) was the only effective Civil Rights man in the South.” Given today’s perspective, that seems strange. But when judged by the standards of that era, this might be the best and most misunderstood legacy of Longism.(This book is included in a Library of America volume of Liebling.)

  • Mike
    2019-04-28 19:32

    Liebling's account of the lesser (shorter?) Long brother at the end of his political road soars in many moments. Liebling imagined Earl Long to be a "peckerwood Caligula" and was pleased to be disabused of the notion, though truth be told, Earl was plenty crazy, and the instances on display in this book are uproariously funny. There is a liberal use of phonetics at work in the book, which helps capture aural argot at work in New Orleans and Louisiana on a whole, and which is particularly strong in a passage in which Liebling asks a question of a political bagman, only to have it answered with: "Damfino." I was on the floor.A few years ago, an anthology called "Just Enough Liebling" came out that includes the best parts of "The Earl of Louisiana", and I'd recommend reading that, because it focuses on Earl and not the byzantine backstage electoral processes of parish elections. If you haven't read Liebling, though, treat yourself.

  • David Rush
    2019-05-14 12:25

    It may be denial on my part that makes the territory covered seem so improbable. Though just a toddler, I was alive during the last campaign of Earl Long of Louisiana, so surely things could not have been so different during my time on earth. Right? But then again sometimes 50 years is a long time, and a lot can change. Plus the early ‘60s was an amazing time of change and Earl Long comes across to my eyes as the last of a unique breed. During Earl Long’s last year in the Governor’s office he had some sort of break down, declared mentally unstable and flown against his will to a hospital in Texas under direction of his wife and nephew. When Earl got out he continued campaigning for another term even though ineligible. His announced plan was to quit shortly before his term expired have the lieutenant governor take over and therefore he would not technically be taking another consecutive term.Anyway that was the story that brought Liebling from New York to New Orleans, a place he obviously fell in love with.As for the spirit of the times, it is hard to imagine such blatant racism, so cruel that it makes the Longs (Huey and Earl) come off as quite magnanimous. Or maybe not…“..the Long family’s position on the Southern issue. ‘They do not favor the Negro,” a Negro educator once told me, “but they are less inflexibly antagonistic than the others,’” pg. 23Race is a prominent element is this record of that election year (1959) but for all of Liebling’s northern liberality I don’t think he ever mentions talking to an actual black person, well aside from the quote just above I guess.A.J. Liebling must have been quite a character and I like his presentation, but I think it does have the feel of a different age of journalism. I like it, but it is different. One thing is that I found it hard to prepare quotes from the book for examples in this review, because the ones I really liked were not one- liners. He sets up a small story and it takes paragraph or two to finish it off. It is well worth it but you can’t just take one sentence to show how good he is.His analysis is a little free-wheeling, such as one of his recurring observations that New Orleans is part of the Arab and Mediterranean cultureThe Mediterraneans who settled the shores of the interrupted sea scurried across the gap between the Azores and Puerto Rico like a woman crossing a drafty hall in a sheer nightgown to get to a warm bed with a man in it. Old, they carried with them a culture that had ripened properly, on the tree. Being sensible people, they never went far inland. All, or almost all, the interior of North America was therefore filled in from the North Atlantic coast, by the weakest element in that incompletely civilized population-those who would move away from salt water.The middle of Louisiana is where the culture of one great thalassic littoral impinges on the other, and a fellow running for Governor has got to straddle the line between them. Pg. 89See what I mean about trying to pull one bit out? One piece is tied to another, then another and suddenly I am pasting the whole page in here.His Levant/ Louisianna connection idea is, I think, based on and earlier time’s cliché that was embedded in people’s minds about the nature of the Arab world then.On meeting the mayor of New Orleans…The ceremonial coffee is a link between Louisiana and the rest of the Arab world. It is never omitted even though your host is going to throw you out when you have drunk it. pg. 54Louisiana and New Orleans especially must have been quite a sight back then. Morrison sees no chance of stemming the tide of Federal court decisions. He suffers under the disadvantage of living in the contemporary world, while the Perezes and Rainachs remain in the Jurassic. It is the gift of the Longs that they could straddle the intervening million years. Pg 179One of the last political memories before I left the Great State was of the Governor devising political catfish bait. The cat is not a fish to be taken on bird feathers with whimsical names. It demands the solid attraction of chicken guts surrounded by then aura of asafetida: “Smells bad, but cats love,” the manual says.…But other hands had been setting other troutlines with baits even more persuasive to the legislators….They (the statesmen) left the baits on his hooks untouched; they did not seem to be hungry. Pg. 145And now Uncle Earl himself…We got the finest roads, finest schools, finest hospitals in the country- yet there are rich men who complain. They are so tight you can hear ‘em squeak when they walk. They wouldn’t give a nickel to see a earthquake. They sit there wallowin’ hundred-dollar bills like a bullfrog swallow minners-if you chunked them as many as then wan they’d bust. Pg. 96About his rival Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison of New Orleans…”I hate to say this- I hate to boost old Dellasoups-but he’ll be second again…(he always referred to him as Dellasoups)..I’d rather beat Morrison than eat any blackberry, huckleberry pie my mama ever made. Oh how I am praying for that stump-wormer to get in there. I want him to roll up them cuffs, and get out that little old tuppy, and pull down them shades and make himself up. He’s the easiest man to make a nut out of I’ve ever seen in my life”. The “tuppy” for “toupee”, was a slur on Morrison’s hair, which is thinning, though only Long has ever accused him of wearing a wig. Pg. 26…if he was going to make up with Mrs. Long, and if he didn’t think that would help him get the women’s vote in the primary. He said, “If dat’s da price of victory, I rather go ahead and be defeated. After all, lots of men have lost elections before.” Pg. 125Oh yeah. It’s a very good book.

  • Bap
    2019-04-28 19:37

    Journalist a.j. Liebling wrote this account of the last 18 months of Earl Long, brother of Huey. As the book begins, Earl is governor of Louisiana, just returned from Texas where he had been committed to a mental institution by his wife Blanche who perhaps did not appreciate Earl's penchant for attending strip clubs and befriending Blaze Starr, a notorious burlesque performer. It is 1959 and the legislature has passed a law that a governor can only serve one term. Earl had already served a term and sat out a term and then was reelected. Earl decides he will resign and then run again. Liebling uses the occasion to examine the great state of Louisiana divided between libertine Catholics of New Orleans and the hard scrabble Baptists in the northern part of the state. Liebling likens all of this to Lebanon. The divisions also were between populists like the Longs and oil interests. Progressives and racists. All factions had the good sense to reward their friends and punish their enemies and engage in graft. Eventually Long decides he can not trust the Supreme Court to rule his way and instead runs for lieutenant governor. He is defeated by Jimmie. Davis , a singer who is rememebered for the song, "you are my Sunshine" Davis joins forces with racists to convince the Long supporters that they must abandon populism for racism . Undettered, long then runs for a vacant House seat, wins the primary which is tantamount to winning the election but suffers a heart attack on the day of the vote but refuses to go to a hospital on election day for fear that his opponents would capitolize on the news. He died the next day.I have spent slot of time in Louisiana and can say that this book captures the spirit of the politics of this state: saints and sinners, con men, racists, big oil men, demagogues, rogues, and eccentrics. They also have great food at least the Cajuns do, and great music too.

  • Ethan
    2019-05-03 12:45

    This book is amazing. A.J. Liebling was a politics and war correspondent, but mostly he was really into food, boxing and horse racing, three subjects which he manages to relate everything to, along with ancient Greece and Napoleon. He came to Louisiana right after Earl Long was committed to a sanitarium and followed Long's struggle to get back into office. It's a really great portrait of the insanity of Louisiana politics.

  • Josh
    2019-05-02 16:39

    Mon dieu! The race for governor of the gret stet of Louisiana in 1959 was not politics as we know it. The past and Louisiana are both foreign countries. For entertainment's sake if nothing else, we need Democrats of the Huey and Earl Long tradition to make a comeback. Who is getting on stage nowadays to defend welfare spending for the "spastics?"

  • James Voorhees
    2019-05-14 17:32

    This is a fascinating, entertaining look at American politics. Earl Long was Huey's brother. He served as governor of Louisiana in the late 1950s, which is when Liebling went to the state to report on the gubernatorial election. He expected to find just unsophisticated racist trash, but discovered a political scene and a politician that were much less easily dismissed.

  • Rock
    2019-05-08 16:45

    Essential to understanding the history of American politics - and Liebling may be one of the best writers of the 20th century.

  • Rick
    2019-05-17 13:35

    A. J. Liebling is on of the great essayists in American literature. He wrote beautifully on a wide range of subjects but in this book he focuses all his reportorial skills on covering Louisiana politics as epitomized by Governor Earl Long. Long, the brother of the more famous Huey, emerges as a character who if placed in a novel would be characterized as unbelievable. Set during the run up to the 1960 gubernatorial election in Louisiana the book zeros in on the byzantine plotting of a host of disreputable politicians, most of whom are blatant racist bigots, as they jockey to gain advantage in the Louisiana jungle primary. Long is a scoundrel, most certainly dishonest and probably crazy but he emerges from the wreckage as the most able and humane politician of this motley crew. Such is Liebling's gifts as a writer that the reader is totally entertained as opposed to disgusted by the whole weird extravaganza. In the Earl of Louisiana the perfect writer encounters the perfect subject.

  • Matt Neely
    2019-05-05 18:27

    5 stars if you want a Northerner's inside look at the 1959 LA election, replete with language and images from the era. Insider's book.

  • Monica
    2019-05-10 12:30

    Hard to get into, too much name dropping at the beginning. Didn't really start for me until page 89 or so, when he himself, the "Oil" of the "Gret Stet" of "Loosiana," gave his speech.

  • Paul O'Leary
    2019-04-24 18:24

    Most people remember Roosevelt's "second most dangerous man in America", though few remember he had a younger, crazier brother. This work fills that gap. Another marvelous book from the writer/reporter from the New Yorker, A.J. Liebling, author of the saccharin Sweat Science. The focus is on Earl Long, governor of Louisiana, as he attempts to scam, campaign, and dirty deal his way into that office yet again. A tall order, especially if state law prohibits consecutive terms and you've been very recently hospitalized for madness. But tall orders seem to have been the norm, given Earl's compulsive personality. Yet the mise en scene of Louisiana state politics and the wildcat way it once functioned really remains the main reason for a modern day reader to read this book. That, and Liebling's magnificent writing. Perhaps a sample is in order; one describing Earl after giving one of his fire and brimstone campaign speeches and he has turned the platform over to other allied, though lesser, politicians on his "ticket":Pulling his chair slightly out of line, he crossed his legs and turned his profile to the audience, first plucking at his sleeves, which came down as far as his thumbnails, then, when he had disengaged his hands, picking his nose while he looked over at Alick's leading hotel, the Bentley, across the street, described by Louisiana's Great Guide as "a six-story building of brick and stone, with column facade and richly decorated interior." He stared at it as if it contained some absorbing riddle. When he finished with his nose, he began to bathe his face, his temples and the back of his neck with Coca-Cola from the cold bottle, sloshing it on like iced cologne. "Cool yourself off, Earl," a voice piped from the crowd, and the Governor shouted back, "I'm a red-hot poppa!"OMG. Liebling is a master literary craftsman, but how can you not score with people and material like that??Okay, how about another shot of that moonshine Liebling dispenses with such consummate literary skill and humor(with, of course, more than a little help from his subject):Tom now turned to deLesseps S Morrison who, when I left, seemed Earl's most formidable rival for the nomination. "Chep(Morrison), the progressive conservative, had chose quietism and decency in making his play for the national crowd here." Tom wrote: "He went back down to Pointe Coupes, his home parish, to announce for governor last weekend. Then he got on water skis and sprayed up and down False River, speaking to the crowd at boat piers. Chep is making the Chamber of Commerce approach: no gimmicks, only a circus bandwagon and a lazy band, which he is using on his stomping tour through the towns."Get the feeling "no gimmicks" means something different to a southerner than those of us residing north of the D.C.? Actually, that is a problem with this work. Liebling, a New Yorker, viewed the south as one large carnival and Earl as its most talented clown. This prejudice does seep into other misinterpretations. The leading one is Liebling's peculiar notion that Earl was a civil rights leader. Unfortunately, one random remark that "Lincoln was right" doesn't constitute a political platform of any kind; merely a random, likely fleeting, impression. Earl would later jump onto the "racist ticket" after his foundered. This switch had nothing ideological about it(nor did it have anything of the sort for Davis, head of that ticket); just a maneuvering for money and influence which made Louisianan politics work, or, rather, pay. The fact that Loebling might be taken in, even for a moment, by this casual spitball demonstrates the northerner's prejudice that more must exist behind the cynical circus facade of politics, like, say, a belief that doesn't end up in one's wallet. The show wasn't enough. It couldn't be. There had to be a deeper meaning, preferably attached to betterment for an impoverished constituency. Huey, Earl's older brother, exploited this theme deftly, but always made sure either the "foreign"(not of the Gret State)oil companies or the federal government payed for the show. The audience got some free popcorn and something to talk about(Liebling makes frequent reference to Louisianians' love of talking politics, much like the Romans' enthusiasm for discussing the Trinity in Augustine's time), while the politicians divided up the receipts, afterwards. This book does, however, give a vivid description of how wacky and sadly entertaining that show could be.

  • Emily
    2019-05-05 14:49

    This is one of those books I’ll need to read again to fully appreciate. The plethora of names, and job descriptions, threw me for a loop. It would also help to have historical background knowledge of the Longite era. It was interesting to read about Earl because growing up in Louisiana, I only ever heard about Huey, road on the Huey P. Long Bridge, took Huey quizzes in my 8th grade La History class and watched video clips on the conspiracy of Huey’s death. I was astound at how much Louisiana has grown politically and culturally since that era. My father is a New Orleans boy, along with his crazy side of the family. I grew up no more than 20 miles from New Orleans, yet my culture is vastly water downed from the New Orleans’ culture I read about. Yes, I still see the eccentrics and wannabe-eccentrics that still make up crazy New Orleans, but I almost wonder if the New Orleans’ culture (minus the food and music) will eventually die off in a few generations. "The characters" of New Orleans, if you will. The ending was hard for me to grasp. I re-read the sucker four times and I still can’t understand if the journalist, A.J. Liebling, was being sarcastic, ironic or preachy. He wrote that the starvation of over 24,000 African American kids in New Orleans, that gained world-wide attention, was a “promising demographic innovation in the Western world.” “Many unmarried mothers try, illegally, to get rid of their children before they are born, and letting them starve to death is a time-tested and, in Louisiana now, a state-sanctioned method of getting rid of them as soon after they are born as possible. It is better than abortion because it saves the mothers from committing a Mortal Sin, and better than letting the children live because they would grow up in unsuitable surroundings and some might eventually become members of the NAACP. The La law is a promising demographic innovation in the Western world, and I was amazed, shortly after my return to these shores, to read an editorial in the New York Times that, in slavish imitation of the meddling foreigner, denounced it...”I have to assume he is being “smart.” Throughout the book he shows no inkling of agreeing with the Louisiana Boy’s repertoire. He is also stated as liberal in the Introduction. But his ending made my jaw drop and wonder....what did I miss?

  • Kathleen
    2019-04-26 12:26

    "The Earl of Louisiana" is one of the funniest books I have ever read.  The late, great journalist A.J. Liebling makes me long for what is largely a lost art of longform journalism.  Also unfamiliar in this age of "present both sides even if one side is either ridiculous or bigoted," was Liebling's straightforward point of view.  In introducing us to a doctor who believed a man of color in his 50s is an intellectual "adolescent" (among other awful things), Liebling's tone exhibits all the NYC intellectual superiority and ridicule the situation deserves.  Evidently progress, liberalism, education, and intellectualism were not the evils they are considered today.  But I digress.Getting your hands on the newer 2008 edition is well worth it, as the new introduction from Jonathan Yardley serves to place this work in context and introduce us to the character who was A.J. Liebling.  He was, in fact, about as much of a character as his subject, Earl Long.  The book (originally a series of essays for The New Yorker) tells the story of Huey Long's younger brother Earl, who ended up committed to a mental hospital while serving as Governor, only to emerge immediately ready to press on with his campaign for reelection.  Liebling falls for the larger-than-life eccentric Governor (and of course for the beautiful city of New Orleans), and makes a pretty compelling argument that he may just have been the most effective Civil Rights politician of his time in the South.The only reason I picked this book up was because a quotation from it appears in the forward to "A Confederacy of Dunces" in describing New Orleans as an extension of the Mediterranean world.  I am so glad I did.  Liebling's humor, unique voice and infectious enthusiasm for his subject are unrivaled in terms of any political reporting I have ever read.  It was as if I got in a time machine and got to hear A.J. regaling me with crazy stories of the campaign trail over sazeracs (his favorite).  What an unexpected treat this was.

  • Tony
    2019-05-07 12:38

    Lielbling, A. J. THE EARL OF LOUISIANA. (1961). ****. Although this reads in part like a novel, it is truly a straight book of reporting on the story of Earl Long and his bid for re-election in 1959 after having just been released from a mental institution. Earl, the younger brother of Huey, was governor, and knew that he could not succeed himself according to Louisiana law. What he did was to step down from the governorship and allow the Lieutenant Governor to take over for the last four months of what would have been his regular term. His thinking was that he then was not succeeding himself, but succeeding the Lieutenant Governor. He was always a dynamic and energetic peerson, but when on the campaign trail he became the next thing to a maniac. His speeches were full of pyrotechnics. His actions on the campaign trail were flamboyant and excessive. His rhetoric was full of mis-quoted biblical references which were incorporated into his campaign literature. A person like him could only be found in the state of Louisiana, and Liebling followed along with him on his campaign. His actions led to a mental breakdown, and he was wisked off to a sanitarium in Texas. He talked his way out of there in order to be committed to one in Louisiana, then got out of that one by firing the head of the facility and most of his senior staff. Back on the campaign trail he went. This is not just about Long, though. It is about the mental attitude of the Louisiana voter on such major issues as political ethics and, of key importance, the Negro question. This gives us an insight into the hurdles the civil rights battle had to face in the deep south during this period. The statements that came out of the mouths of the politicians in those days are unbelievable today – but they said them. Recommended.

  • E
    2019-05-12 19:33

    Read in college for a Louisiana History class ages ago. Although Earl did not achieve the national fame of his more charismatic and visionary brother Huey, Earl's life, shenanigans, and outrageous politics may have been even more flamboyant (if possible), though more localized, than that of his brother. (Witness Earl's wife's committing him to the state mental hospital, whereupon Earl fired the hospital administrator who would not release him and appointed one who did.) Even given that material, however, this book (actually a series of articles) does its job as a respectable vehicle for classroom use, but not much more. Comparing this workhorse biography to T. Harry Williams' award-winning and narratively rich biography of Huey may be as unfair as comparing "Uncle Earl" to big brother Senator Huey, but this one merely gets the job done like a stubborn mule (to which Earl was often compared), while Williams' book races to the finish like a well-trained, well-bred, well-fed winner.

  • Yofish
    2019-05-10 17:34

    It's not a traditional biography--it's more like an extended magazine piece. Journalist from New York goes down to Louisiana to cover a gubernatorial election in 1960. (I also probably had in mind that it'd be about Huey Long, but it's really about his brother Earl, who was equally colorful and charismatic, but lived a lot longer.) Filled with anecdotes about whom the guy talked to and how La politics works. (With lots of graft, apparently.) Also, in 1960, a big deal is constantly (and scarily) made about who is best positioned to maintain segragation and fight those nosy Feds coming in to try to integrate the niggers. (Though according to the author, Long himself was relatively progressive in this direction.)Really 4.5

  • Eric
    2019-04-22 20:37

    Ostensibly the story of Louisiana Governor Earl Long's doomed bid to circumvent term-limit laws, Liebling's book ends up as a dissection of the South as the civil-rights movement is coming to a boil. The New Yorker writer lays bare the state's tribal affinities, tracking the uneasy alliances and ugly sacrifices that open the door to an increasingly open and pernicious racism. But this isn't a political-science textbook; it's Liebling. He entertains us with aphoristic digressions on horse-racing and boxing, and imbues his characters with theatrical life. Liebling's tale—originally dispatches filed in the 1959 and 1960—hold up remarkably well, and his Long jumps off the page like a redneck Lear—the aging, impetuous king whose sins prove forgivable in the face of far greater evils.

  • Susan
    2019-04-28 17:29

    Was it Marx who said that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce? Earl Long's brother Huey was governor of Louisiana, a threat to FDR's New Deal, and assassinated. Earl was governor of Louisiana, confined to a mental institution after trying to divorce his wife for the beautiful red-haired stripper Blaze Starr, and victoriously returned with a certificate acknowledging his sanity, something no other Louisiana politician had. And who better to describe this scandal, outstanding even today with the plethora of scandals we've seen, then the polysyllabic master Liebling?

  • Robert
    2019-04-25 12:42

    This may well be the best book about politics I have ever read, and in the top ten of all the books I have read. A. J. Liebling, the great New Yorker writer, at the height of his ability in 1959 and 1960 undertook to write about Louisiana Governor Earl Long, at the end of his career. The result is a hilarious look at 1960 era Louisiana, the Civil Rights Movement, and one of the most colorful characters to ever occupy a governor's mansion.

  • Betty
    2019-05-13 15:25

    Some of his antics were hilarious. What I remember most from the book is the part about him buying potatoes, alarm clocks, and individual plastic bags of goldfish on sale and directing policemen and politicians (including a senator) to help him grab as many as possible to put in the trunk of his car. Since the trunk was too full to close, he sent a judge back in for some rope. Earl sat in his car eating watermelon while the judge was on his knees tying the rope.Only in Louisiana!

  • John Tipper
    2019-04-25 15:46

    One of the trailblazers of the New Journalism, Liebling's portrait of the eccentric Governor of Louisiana in the '50s, Earl Long, was first published by "The New Yorker" in 1961. To call Long a "character" is an understatement. An eloquent speaker and heavy drinker, Earl spent time in a mental institution while he was in office. Liebling gives an in-depth, impression of New Orleans and the state's politics. The writer was an inimitable stylist.

  • David
    2019-05-12 15:52

    Liebling was a writer for the New Yorker who wrote a lot about journalism.This one's about Earl Long, the great Huey's younger brother, who was supposedly crazy, but if so, like a fox.Liebling's comparison of Louisiana to Lebanon alone makes this book worth dipping into, even if it's a bit condescending at times. It's a quick read.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-02 19:33

    Not many states can claim that their governor was committed to a mental hospital while in office, and that said governor continued his governorly duties while in said mental hospital. I suppose he was just trying to keep up with big brother Huey's antics, but I was never quite as sympathetic with Uncle Earl. Just another splash on Louisiana's large canvas of colorful politicians.

  • Craig Pittman
    2019-05-02 19:30

    One of my all-time favorite books, full of witty writing and keen observations about a genuine American original, Earl Long, who was running for re-election shortly after being released from an insane asylum.

  • Kate Blumenthal
    2019-05-02 13:28

    Fred and I read this in the form of a series of articles from the New Yorker. It should be required reading for anyone trying to understand race relations in the deep south. Liebling paints an unforgettable picture of a time and a place.

  • HeavyReader
    2019-04-23 19:49

    This is another book I read for the Louisiana history class I took in college. I don't remember much about this book, but I do remember writing about it for the final exam. I made an "A" in the class, so I guess I remembered enough about it at the time.

  • Katie
    2019-05-03 17:35

    Getting ready for my trip to New Orleans. Quick, entertaining read. I want to look into more of Liebling's work because he cracked me up.

  • Karen Mcgillivray
    2019-05-13 12:34


  • Phil Overeem
    2019-04-25 12:33

    Political nonfiction almost as witty and surreal as A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES is as a work of fiction. It helps that both are about Louisiana.