RARA-AVIS: Miss Lonelyhearts: Al

From: Robison Michael R CNIN ( Robison_M@crane.navy.mil)
Date: 03 Oct 2002

Al asked: And I'm interested, Mike: West is one of the four I haven't read that I'd most like to. What did you think of MISS LONELYHEARTS?

********* MISS LONELYHEARTS was worth reading. I can't say I was really rocked by it, but, if anything, that's indicative of my shortcomings and not West's. I'm a crusty old conservative and it's really hard to get me excited about a "look-how-terrible-society-is-and-how-it-twists-people" theme. I would have been more impressed by the book in my teens. And that is not an accusation that the book is childish, but that I have grown insensitive to social issues over the years.

Alright, alright. That "raises" (Thanks, Richard. Your email was duly noted. ;-) the question, "Well, you liked Goodis. Doesn't it have the same theme?" I'm going to say "no" to that. Although the plots might both involve big society stepping on the little people, the theme is where the spotlight is pointed. To me, West's is aimed at society, and Goodis's is aimed at the person. That's all the difference in the world. One is whining about nasty mean old society and the other is a moving portrayal of how the little guy acts in the path of the steamroller.

And now something else occurs to me. Maybe it's not a
"spotlight" issue at all. It might be that the reason I wasn't overly impressed with MISS LONELYHEARTS is because I'm not in touch with my feminine side. Hahaha! What I mean by this is that Miss Lonelyhearts's reaction to his situation is more along the lines of the masochistic/fem- inine response that Woolrich employs in I MARRIED A DEAD MAN, as opposed to the sadistic/masculine response that's more often associated with tough guy hardboiled (By the way, I pulled those two labels from a post on another group about Woolrich. Somebody noted that the FILM NOIR READER had an essay on Woolrich, and the author noted these two responses to the noir world.), and I much prefer the stoic tough guy approach.

Well, sorry for the stream of consciousness post. As you can see, I don't have a firm handle on any of this and I'm working it out as I go.

Read it, Al! It's only 59 pages. As far as action, it's on par with O'Hara's APPOINTMENT IN SAMARRA.



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