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Walt Whitman and Breaking Bad | Rolling Stone


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Rob Sheffield writes:

Last season reached a startling climax – where else? – in the bathroom, where Hank found the most incriminating copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass since the one Bill Clinton gave Monica Lewinsky. (In return, Monica gave the president Oy Vey! The Things They Say! A Book of Jewish Wit. Any chance Walter has that one around the house somewhere?)

How could Walter, a planner so meticulous he stashes his ricin cigarette in the electric socket, leave a handwritten note from a dead crook in his bathroom? It was a foolish risk for Walter to take, and there were plenty of those by the end of the season. Most spectacularly, there was the prison bloodbath he ordered up, wiping out nine inmates at the same time. Bringing in Nazis to do his dirty work was a crazy gamble. Walt makes a lot of those, all while assuring himself he's the only rational player at the table. Everybody knows this can't end well, right?

It makes sense that the poet laureate of this crime story is Walt Whitman – a writer who took his dark inspiration from the painful secrets American men drag around. Those leaves of grass he wrote about – that's not a sweet, pastoral image. Whitman saw all that grass as "the beautiful uncut hair of graves." And the other W.W. has left a lot of dead bodies under him. Drug lords generally don't retire, as the world already learned from Stringer Bell, Tony Montana and "Freddie's Dead."

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