Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Big Blowdown.

I got bogged down in another George P. Pelecanos book, The Big Blowdown.

I love his writing. He's fantastic.

I was asked once if he was any good, and I answered without thinking, "I don't know how anyone could be so good."

So what's the problem?

I've read a couple of his novels and really admired them. I really LOVED one of his books. (More of that below.)

His plots are believable and complex.

His characterization is spot on.

His dialogue is brilliant.

His urban milieu is evocative and reeks of authenticity.

So again, what's the problem?

I think it's that last thing. The urban milieu. The urban hopelessness. The ethnic trap.

I just can't cotton to it. Why don't they get the fuck out? Go somewhere else! Escape your toxic neighborhood and your dysfunctional family and your generational sinkhole.

O.K. I know it's not that simple. But I just don't want to read it. I had the same problem with Mystic River, by Dennis Lehane. Get in your car and drive! You were Born to Run.

The one Pelecanos exception was King Suckerman. Which not coincidentally was about that very subject -- trying to get out, to escape the trap.

Sadly, I've also stopped reading LeCarre because his last two novels were so damn hopeless. Everyone dies. Screw that. In fact, in the last novel, the main character turns out to be dupe. He's the fall-guy. Anyone remember Warren Beatty in the Parallax View? That kind of godsmack ending. Yuck.

So why do I still like Jame Ellroy? Or James Lee Burke? Their visions are almost as dark, if not darker.

I think they leave a hope, somewhere in their dense plots, for an escape. A hope that the right moral decision will lead to a better world.

I used to have much more tolerance for this kind of existential malaise. In fact, I scorned readers who weren't willing to read harsher books. Maybe it's age. I don't know. If you still like reading this kind of thing, more power to you.

Pelecanos is a great writer.

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