RARA-AVIS: Ellroy/Golden Age

From: Michael Sharp ( msharp@binghamton.edu)
Date: 02 Sep 2000

Well, of course Ellroy thinks of the 40s/50s as a golden age; all of us do, to some extent, since hardboiled writing was really flourishing then (a little earlier as well) and the heroes of the genre were writing then. Now, I have my problems with Ellroy at times, but in my more generous moments I feel like his writing self-consciously de-romanticizes the past. He doesn't allow you, from a contemporary perspective, to see an American past whitewashed of racial prejudice and conflict. Even his "heroes" are ugly at times -- ugly to us, anyway, in their casual racism. I actually think his mission in mining the past for more fictional possibilities has a kinship w/ Mosley's, though Mosley is more self-consciously critical in this regard
(personally, I LOVE Mosley's writing -- I can't even look at most other contemporary writers). For all I know Ellroy's a huge bigot. I don't care, really. He's a good enough writer for me to allow for the possibility that his writing is not politically/socially uncritical. I couldn't read him for the longest time, not bec. of his use of "the 'N' word" ("nigger," I presume, a word I'd rather see in front of me than have hidden behind some euphemism), but because the word "fuck" was just everywhere and I thought that showed a really unimaginative range in his dialogue. I got over it, though I still think writers occasionally confuse being hardboiled w/ being profane.


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