Reviews of Casey Agonistes (1958)
Review by kirwar4face (2004-04-13)
I rarely, bordering on never, rate anything a '10'. To me, 10 represents the unattainable ideal; at best any real story can only rate a '9'. But Richard McKenna's 'Casey Agonistes' is one of those rare perfect stories. I suppose a nitpicker who looked hard enough could find some small flaw in the execution of the story, but that hypothetical nitpicker's objections would, before they could be lodged, dissolve in a flow of grateful tears. I don't remember if I wept the first time I read it - I was only probably about 12 years old then - but I have certainly wept since on rereading, or just thinking about Casey, who is real and will come to visit the thoughtful reader unexpectedly in quiet moments.
As I grow older and more personally acquainted with death, at least in my hypochondriac imagination, I come to realize how important it is, beyond the mere delight of the thing, to have a giant ape like Casey to caper and distract us from the less benevolent (though well-intended) capers of other simians. It is my contention that laughter, and the compassion attendant on seeing just how funny the world is, and we little people in it, will always triumph over the pernicious big-D sort of Death (or is that the little-d death?) anyway, I mean the kind that wants to suck the life out of everything before it kills it. That's the only kind of death we ever need to be afraid of.