RARA-AVIS: a damn good kiss

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 06 Jun 2002

hi everybody!

one of the things i've noted in reading first person novels is the difficulty in developing characters, since the depth of the sup- porting cast is limited to dialogue and observations of the pro- tagonist. you can't see what they do outside of the protagonist's eyes, and you can't know their thoughts.

it began to occur to me that first person narrative sorta sucks be- cause of that. and then i read my first crumley novel, _the last good kiss_. its written in first person and the characters are superbly and subtly and beautifully drawn. i thought on it for a while and decided that it was because sughrue, the main character, spends a lot of time with the characters, giving crumley plenty of opportunity to flesh them out. but that just wasn't accurate. crumley does a great job of knocking out even the bit players, like selma and stacy.

many moons ago i read a book by anne rice, a prominent contemporary horror writer. the narrative stated that a girl is charmed by a witty and wise conversation with some guy (i think the book was _the mummy_). i remember getting a bad feeling about that right off the bat. my feeling was, "tell me what he said and i'll decide for myself." i got the distinct feeling that she wasn't capable of writing it and was sidestepping the real work.

crumley can write dialogue... sharp, intelligent, and revealing, bringing depth to his characters and forwarding the plot. sughrue's world-weary attitude and witty cynicisms, often delivered as one- liners, encourages comparison with chandler's marlowe. i've only read chandler's _big sleep_, and i hesitate (not really) to dis the master, but i'd say that crumley does a better job with women than chandler. rosie, catherine, betty sue, and even trahearne's mother come thru as distinct and believable and more convincing characters than either of the sternwood sisters.

crumley even does a GREAT job of developing characters that don't have a single line. fireball, the drunken bulldog with a preference for japanese beer, is a far more interesting and successful char- acter than spillane's pat chambers in _i, the jury_.

crumley's _the last good kiss_ is the best book i've read since mccarthy's _blood meridian_.


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