- Deconstructing the "Good-Old Boy" Ethic:Male Friendship in Luis Fernando Verissimo's O Clube dos Anjos
American author E.B. White once remarked that "it is easier for a man to be loyal to his club than to his planet; the bylaws are shorter, and he is personally acquainted with the other members" (277). Male friendship, while complex in nature, has undoubtedly led to the formation of strong social groups, such as fraternities, boy's clubs, and even gangs. It is in these communal organizations that men are able to bond and develop friendships based on shared interests and activities. In many instances, networking and favoritism are established within the groups that ultimately benefit the members politically, economically or socially, a concept commonly referred to as the "good-old boy" ethic. In Luis Fernando Verissimo's O Clube dos Anjos, male friendship, or amizade in Portuguese, is an essential theme. The author uses the novel not only to highlight male friendship and the "good-old boy" ethic, but also to critique the masculine construct as a negative force that can destroy a group rather than strengthen it. Verissimo, a Brazilian writer known best for his chronicles on everyday life, allows O Clube dos Anjos to present a more sinister side of male amizade, a concept that can sometimes hinder ambition, stifle progress, and lower expectations of those involved.
The concept of the "good-old boy" ethic can be found in many cultures worldwide. "Old boy" was a term first associated with males that graduated from prestigious preparatory schools in England. Tim Heald comments: ". . .going to a public school not only gave you an education but also admitted you to a life membership of an exclusive and potentially useful club" (14). A more modern interpretation, however, bands [End Page 209] groups of typically rich, white men who may share in a common economic interest or political outcome. Most are viewed as elitist and difficult to join, unless you already know a member or share familial ties. Inclusion in the group is considered positive since the men work together to achieve similar outcomes, sometimes to the detriment or exclusion of those outside of the network. In Brazil, similar groups are frequently established and even considered essential to function within the larger society. Tracy Novinger explains that "getting anything done in Brazil depends greatly on intermediaries and therefore on one's network of social relationships. To do business or meet people in Brazil, it is important to obtain introductions through a mutual acquaintance" (89). More importantly, gender has an influential role in determining which groups are more powerful. Novinger concludes "traditionally, Brazilian culture has been male dominated" (96). Because of existing gender inequalities, being a man who is also a member of a Brazilian "good-old boy" organization can be extremely beneficial politically, socially, and even economically.
The overall success of any social organization, male or female, depends upon the strengths exhibited by its members in working together to guarantee a stable entity. Amizade, in this case male amizade, plays a vital role in providing stability, with either positive or negative effects on the development of the group. In O Clube dos Anjos, Verissimo presents an elite, "good-old boy" association called the Clube do Picadinho that centers on fine dining and high culture. The novel is written from the perspective of Daniel, both story narrator and club member. He explains: "éramos todos mais ou menos da mesma idade. Todos mais ou menos ricos, se bem que nossas fortunas tinham fluído e refluído em vinte anos" (Verissimo 13). Founding members include Daniel, Abel, João, Saulo, Marcos, Paulo, Pedro, Tiago and Samuel. Ramos, former club organizer and leader, passed away from AIDS several months prior. Of the existing members, all grew up together in the same neighborhood and social class except for Samuel, who was introduced into the club by Ramos, and newcomer André, who joined to replace Ramos after his death.
Although the club initially meets at a local bar called Alberi's and feasts on traditional Brazilian food, Ramos persuades the men to evolve their pallets and sample more exotic cuisine. Daniel remarks...