RARA-AVIS: shoot the piano player

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 29 Jul 2002

hi everybody!

some time ago, after i had just finished spillane's _i, the jury_, i mentioned in a discussion that spillane didn't do a very good job of fleshing out his characters. someone replied that back then books were half or a third the length they are now, and that is why the characters aren't as developed. at the time i accepted this as a reasonable argument, but after reading david goodis's 1956 novel, _shoot the piano player_, i realize that's not true. goodis can introduce a character and write a deep and profound and impressive portrait of them in the space of a few pages.

the book is about a piano player who leads a lost and lonely life after, years before, turning his back on his wife when she needed him most, and indirectly causing her suicide. he walks away from his stellar career as a celebrated concert pianist, fighting and brawling for years until he finds some peace of mind playing piano in a rundown bar. but even this small comfort disappears when he becomes unwillingly caught up in his brothers' criminal activities.

the blurb on the back cover of the black lizard copy that i have states that this is the way that kerouac would have written a crime novel. i read the blurb before i started the book, and i had to search my memory for kerouac's style. i would have pulled out
_the dharma bums_ or _on the road_ and read a few lines to get a feel for it, but we're doing some remodelling and, alas, most of my books are boxed up. anyway, goodis's style in this book often involves some circuitous internal ramblings, and i think this might be what the kerouac comment referred to. although it was an effective way of describing the protagonist state of mind, i occasionally found it annoying.

the ending is nothing short of superb.


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