In Current reading, Drafts, Irish Mist, Now playing in a theater near you, Ridgewood, The Crab Walker, The Man in the Jar on May 23, 2014 at 8:48 am

All I can say for now: James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss is the best I’ve read in the genre, although Denis Lehane’s Mystic River runs a close second. (The beauty of having no booked appointments today? I read till my eyes closed. Slept till they opened, and read on from there until I finished the book.)

So why adverbs as a title? Because Crumley sprinkles them around. People say things casually, lamely, flatly, and so on. I noticed, but didn’t mind the way I might in another context. The adverbs seemed part of the overall mood. A story in which the narrator drinks slowly on the fourth day as his solution to a three-day bender? You don’t ask where he took his writing classes.

I was pulled back to earlier incarnations of some characters that cropped up in my years of writing. Chanced across some of the draft pages from earlier stories while I cleaned out some of the paper files over here. (Speaking of paper files: funny about that local break-in where some paper files were lifted along with the electronic stuff. I didn’t know there were fences interested in work logs. Specializations in every profession, I guess.)

I was saying – ah yes, some of the folks from my story land store. Who committed all the sins of omission or commission (not enough or too much detail/background, reader feeder, adverbs strung out like Christmas lights in July, etc).  Embarrassing? Keep them at home, hide them in the closet, don’t even send them to someone’s slush pile.

Except. Except every single one of them was born in times when the only writing I could do was in my head or on the corner of a counter, somewhere, between dealing with drudge. Short scribbles to nail down the exact tone of an employer’s whine. Or long, teary rambles of why-why-why. Or long, self-accusatory analyses of my failings as wife/mother/daughter/female/human/sentient being. With loads of excuses for everybody else’s failings. Why? I don’t know. As a pre-emptive strike, maybe. See? All’s forgiven, and the ashes all strewn on my head.  Hell, if you cast the first stone at yourself, and the second, third and twentieth too, they’ll either beg you to stop or run away. Once they run away, you’re free to stop berating yourself; enjoy a pizza and read through the night, if that’s your mood of the moment.

Reading through some of my old stuff now (once set aside the reams and reams of self-pitying stuff, best summarized in short sentences), I’m inclined to agree with one of Crumley’s unsavory characters who has a grant for a scholarly study of the decline of the American pornographic film. While his chosen field of study doesn’t appeal as a steady diet, I liked this enough to mark it off in my copy of the book : “It’s the same in all the arts: as technology advances, humor declines. The limits and definitions of art disappear, then the art is forced to satirize itself too earnestly, and the visual arts become literary, and that, my friends, is the very first sign of cultural degeneracy.”

Of course, as applied to the man’s chosen field of study, the comment leaves me searching for an appropriate response. But laughing too.

Prior to my all-night involvement in Crumley’s novel, the delightful moment in yesterday occurred in the last coaching session when two small boys started riffing while drawing out mother’s day greetings (that wonderful Day occurs this upcoming Sunday, here in France.) One of the boys was using a beige-colored crayon and I asked him what he was drawing. A giant chip, he said.  From there,  emerged the first episode in a story they titled: Ruben, Azdine and the Mutant Chip. No couch potato, the Mutant Chip has set off to gobble up the known and unknown universes (I hold the pen, the boys improvise.) The first episode ends as they attempt to gobble the chip before it takes on black holes. We don’t know what will happen next. We’ll have to wait two weeks to find out. Next Thursday is a holiday.

Explore some Katherine Mansfield, next? Probably, possibly, maybe, perhaps, yeah, I just might do that.



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