Date: 22 Nov 2002


> wrote:
> Kerry, as for your earlier contention that Ellroy explores the themes of
> the "chaotic" 20th century world, I disagree whole-heartedly with that.
> IMO, the only landscape Ellroy is exploring (mytho-poetic or otherwise) is
>the interior landscape of his own dark, twisted psyche (which is part of what
> makes his non-fiction work, "My Dark Places" such riveting stuff). If he's
> working out his issues and getting paid for it, great for him. But I find
nothing epic about his obsession with corruption, and *over*-emphasis on the profane.
> **********
> I see what you mean! The dirty, mean, corrupted streets of Los
> Angeles that Ellroy portrays are just some twisted personal fantasy
> of his, with no foundation in reality. In the real world cops
> are honest, racism doesn't exist, there's no poverty, and Ward,
> June, Wally, and Beaver wake up every morning to a wonderful
> new day of promise and prosperity. Yeah, right.

Actually, I wrote this in direct response to Kerry's statement that Ellroy explored the great themes of the 20th century, so your sarcasm (although very funny) is misplaced. Corruption is as old as mankind, and as long as there have been taxes to be collected, there have been tax collectors skimming off the top of them. Kerry claimed that Ellroy's ruminations over what lurks in his own dark heart were discussions of what has gone on in the *20th century*, and I found that amusing, especially in light of man's long associaition with payoffs, kick-backs, and bribes.

> It's entirely possible that Ellroy has a "dark, twisted psyche,"
> but that doesn't make the world he paints in the dark shades of
> noir any less significant.

I don't necessarily disagree with what you're saying, Mike, I did, after all, highly recommend "My Dark Places" (both in the post to which you responded and elsewhere) and "The Black Dahlia" to Maryanne. That said, let me ask you this: what is darkness? The absense of light? Possibly. The largest problem I have with Ellroy's archetypes is that they have lately gotten to the point of parody because in most all human beings, there is some sort of balance of good and bad. Adolf Hitler loved dogs and kids. Evil, rotten, murderous son of a bitch? You bet, but just like a stopped clock being right twice a day, he even had his good side (miniscule though it might be), which made him monstrous, but not a caricature.

Some of Ellroy's characters are so swimming in corruption that they seem scarcely half-drawn, and speaking as someone who struggles with characterization in my own work, I'm telling you, in my opinion, well-rounded characters are more fully-drawn than you'll find in Ellroy's work. Compare the female protagonist (forget her name) in James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" with any female character in Ellroy's body of work. There was a discussion on this list not too long ago of her more "admirable" features. I just don't find that in the women set to play off of Ellroy's dark, crawling, sewer-dwelling men.

Now does that mean that I think there ought to be "admirable" (there's that loaded word, again) characters in noir books? Not necessarily. I ought to be able to find something I either like or admire in a character though, in order to be able to find that character sympathetic. Take Stark's Parker, for example. Amoral? Sure. Capable? Yep. Good at what he does? You know it. Resilient? Absolutely. Admirable? Only in a "survival of the fittest" way. Also, Parker is a law breaker, but he's true to himself. Ellroy's characters tend to be so compromised, it's a wonder that they don't collapse under the weight of all of the ennui they're lugging around.
> And I'm clueless about your last statement. Epic simply means the
> darn book is over 500 pages, and corruption and an "*over*-emphasis
> on the profane" are standard characteristics of noir. If you don't
> like that sort of writing, I suggest you stay away from the works
> of William Lindsay Gresham, Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, Horace
> McCoy, James Cain, and David Goodis.

Perhaps I mis-spoke. I intended to address the implicit contention that Ellroy's work is so transcendent that it is, in fact, literary, and not, in the strictest sense, "genre" fiction. In my opinion, it's not. If you don't enjoy hard-boiled or noir writing, you probably won't enjoy Ellroy's work as something "symbolic of the travails of the 20th century" (paraphrase mine). When I think of something to fit that bill, I think of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath", or William Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury", or Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls". These are all tough, realistic novels, with LOTS of dark, gloomy, compromised people in them, and yet there is a balance there which I find lacking in Ellroy's work (again, the opinion is mine alone), something which says that we as humans are all parts (to varrying degrees) diabolic and divine. To me, that is great, "epic" fiction.

Of course it could all come down to the fact that I think that Ellroy lacks a sense of humor, and I'd rather read Parker's stuff and laugh in between ruminations about the sorry state of the human condition. Who can say?;)

Thanks for your input. I enjoyed what you had to say, and the opportunity to respond.



# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 22 Nov 2002 EST