Monday, May 01, 2006

Calling Mr. Cairo

The other day, my department was just sitting down for a meeting.

Lupe: ...and did we ever figure out who did that song Limelight? I don't think we did.
Ricardo: No, we were talking about other things.
Tata: Got a few words?
Lupe: (warbling in falsetto) "Living in the limelight..."
Tata: That's Rush.
Lupe: I can't believe you knew that!
Ricardo: Yeah, especially for a - you know - that's not, like, your thing.

Just about any English-speaking person of my age, beige or lighter, with an FM radio in New Jersey would have known Rush did that song, but really, let's not limit ourselves to what we think may be common knowledge. Ricardo thinks of me as a person who likes bands nobody's ever heard of, which is fine by me but that's not the end of it. I actually like bands several people have heard of.

Johnny reports that even detective fiction has its one-trick ponies:
The way I understand it, Raymond Chandler and Dash Hammett tried to lift detective fiction out of the swamps of pulp sold on newsstands and into the tasteful glow of literature. The people in that camp were appalled by Mickey Spillane, who they saw as dragging it back down. Ross Macdonald was seen as a welcome step back toward giving private dick fiction a little class. Well, I'm here to tell you, the guy's a stooge. I just finished The Barbarous Coast, and I'm angry that he was allowed to call this a book. It's my own fault, I go looking for these things at the library, anything with a pistol and a half-naked chick on the cover, I greedily snap up, and I start them and I can see right away that they're trash, but without the lurid...ity? ...luridosity? lurid quality that makes honest pulp enjoyable, yet I keep on with grim and joyless determination to the last wretched paragraph, like I'm going to learn something about writing, when I fucking already know already, wait until you have enough stuff to make a book before you say you've written a goddamn book. Don't write ten percent book then go back and put in ninety percent filler and give it to your publisher and tell them you're done. I feel for these bastards like Ross Macdonald and Robert Parker. They must have found themselves living the lavish life their first few books bought them, but slowly running out of ideas for more books, having to give something they knew was tripe to publishers desperate for something with that magic name on it, eking out an existence just like the paid-by-the-word pulp hacks they were told they were so superior to when they started. I can see Ross Macdonald sitting out on the terrace of his home by the beach in some tony California town, cigarette in his mouth, in a wife-beater, boxers, and a pair of black socks, tapping out this turkey on a battered old Underwood typewriter left over from the days when he was young and they told him he had talent, pouring scotch into his coffee to give himself the strength to just keep going, keep tapping, until he had enough pages to give to Bantam Books and be done with it already, for crissakes.

A contract's a contract, and a deal with the Devil will someday come due. Ask Dick Cheney! And, by the way, Stephen Colbert is a god.


Blogger DBK said...

"Living in the limelight
A big house and a fancy car
Living in the limelight
Everybody gonna know your name
Surely pleased to meet you
Ask you for your autograph
See your latest feature
In the middle of the middle of a dream
Living in the limelight
See yourself on the silver screen
Living in the limelight"

That's Peter Cetera.

"Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage"

That's Rush. Which one did you mean?

Also, Ross MacDonald isn't that bad. Parker, now he sucks bigtime. But the Lew Archer books? That Ross MacDonald? They aren't that bad. They're a good read. What I hated about Parker the most were those awful attempts to write Philip Marlowe stories, the ersatz Chandler that wasn't worthy to sniff Chandler's shot glass. You read The Long Goodbye some time. Now that's writing. Unbelievable. So good, so evocative. You just get wired into that novel and you feel every moment. "Tarzan on a motor scooter." Amazing.

12:43 PM  
Blogger Tata said...


I hate Peter Cetera with my whole black heart.

6:57 AM  
Blogger DBK said...

He speaks very highly of you. Would you still feel that way if he sent you a muffin basket?

Muffin baskets are the olive branch.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Tata said...

Alas, I reject his advances, though I will accept the muffin basket out of sheer curiosity. Is the actual *basket* made of muffins? What is the tensile strength of muffins?

12:36 PM  

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