Friday, October 16, 2009

Reading the new James Ellroy

Blood's a Rover. yowza. I am about 50 pages in and I am hooked. The writing style is singular and will put off lots of people. It is terse, brutal, abrasively musical, and filled with emotion, mostly negative. The odd thing is, it didn't really work for me in Cold Six Thousand, but it is working now.

I was listening to an Fresh Air interview with another favorite, Michael Chabon, who said that good writing should make the author and the reader uncomfortable. If that's the case, then Ellroy needs to take home the National Book Award and the Pulitzer. Ellroy puts his dark characters through hell and takes the reader through the worst of America. One character is a heroin dealer patricide with a hand in the MLK assasination, and he is one of the good guys.

A lot of crime novelists have supposedly evil characters. Usually this means they are amoral killers who have no mercy on their victims. Ellroy goes a step further with people who use hate to guide society and politics. These are the real monsters. Here he describes the art collection of the country's leading creator of hate pamphlets:

Fine oils. The masters reconsidered. A Van Gogh lynching. A Rembrandt gas-chamber tableaux. Matisse does Congolese atrocities. Paul Klee does Martin Luther King charbroiled.
Crutch scoped the walls. Man Ray did Bobby Kennedy dead on a slab. Picasso did Lady Bird Johnson muff-diving Anne Frank.

My reaction to that last one was the same as the character Crutch, a disbelieving "fuck......" The book is like a fictional, conspiracy theorist version of Nixonland. It shows you the horrors behind the smiles. Oh man would it be fun to read those two books together. You'd need a few weeks to recover, but what a ride.

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