Felix W. Cooper's Literary Excerpts: A Prince's Life

Today's selection is taken from the beginning, middle, and end of the prologue setting up Prince William Smith's autobiography, A Prince's Life. It begins:

"A great deal of my young life was spent in the Western quadrant of the towne of Philadelphia. I enjoyed the company of my confidants whilst we employed our exuberance by means of outdoor recreational furniture. It was in this that I found I was rather partial to a certain enterprise we devised where one is to heartily lob an inflated cow's-gut sack into an elevated loop of steel devised to honor the halo of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The completion of this seemingly inconsequential action was always sure to be consecrated by my contingents who would entertain me with ejaculatory whoops and bawls of congratulatory delectation.

Much to my abashed dismay, our frequently sensational outbursts resulted in the loss of our gut-sack. As fate would have it, it ended up disturbing a rather despicable group of fool-hooligans who insisted that, as a result of our contravention upon their deliberation of the day's crimes against Our Lord, we play the game of fisticuffs as an alternative.

Upon closer inspection I took in the fact that the driver of said vehicle had placed a pair of number-dotted cubes from his rear-set reflector. I knew that rapscallions were fond of utilizing just such tools for games involving the unlawful annexation of improper wealth, among other activities resulting in transgressions in the eyes of the Holy Father. Fearing the driver a miscreant, a quake of God-fear marched down my spine.

It was not until betwixt the hours of seven or eight on March the Twenty-Second in the year of our Lord 1990 that my companion and I reached my destination; Bel Air. I bid a genteel farewell to my cab in spite of the abhorrent vapours to be found within.

Lo! I had arrived!"


Smith's story is 700 pages of sweeping epic. In later chapters the young prince goes on to explain life as a ward under the fist of his corpulent uncle, Philip Banks. He makes special note of a time when Philip, well aware that William was to be entertaining "guests and confidants," did not make a considerable effort to fix the air conditioning needed in order to maintain a comfortable partying temperature.

Smith also does not spare his cousin Carlton. Described by Smith as an "unmanageable sodomite" and possessing "uncouth rhythm and donning questionably knit garb," the energetic Carlton seems to take great delight in preventing the young prince from acquiring the attention of a respectable female consort.

Do not let the premise fool you. A Prince's Life is a book that will leave your hands long before it leaves your mind. If you are looking for a fresh perspective on what would otherwise be a classic rags-to-riches tale, look no further.

Felix W. Cooper has a PhD. in literary studies from Yale University. His latest book "Great Books For Book-Reading Literates" is available in limited numbers from University Press.