Re: RARA-AVIS: Ellroy

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 25 Nov 2002

At 07:03 PM 11/24/02 -0800, you wrote:
> > If you're going to arguewith somebody, deal with the
> > issues he or she has raised. Brian never said
> > corruption, racism, etc., didn't exist, and to suggest
> > that he did as a way of showing the fallacy of his
> > arguments is to fight unfairly.
>I quote Brian:
>"...the only landscape Ellroy is exploring (mytho-poetic or otherwise) is
>interior landscape of his own dark, twisted psyche..."
>I interpretted this as meaning that the world Ellroy portrayed was a mere
>reflection of himself with no foundation in reality. It still doesn't look
>an unreasonable interpretation to me. I'm standing by it. And I realized
>that I was overstating my case and I believe that Brian saw the humor I

Hold on a sec, Mike. While it's true that I did see the humor in what you were saying, I also said the following:

"As the person responsible for starting the latest round of Ellroy "bashing", I suppose it's time I weighed in on the topic of his importance to the genre et al. As a bit of background, I was first exposed to his work several years ago
(late 80s, early 90s) when I read "The Black Dahlia". I was blown away. I thought it one of the finest mystery novels I had ever read."

> > What Brian implied, and it's a fair point, is that the
> > TOTAL corruption Ellroy shows, in which there is NO
> > character acting from good or noble purposes is at
> > least as far from reality as a presentation that
> > suggests that there is no brutality, corruption, or
> > racism in the ranks of American law enforcement.
>Well I didn't know how to take that statement. I saw some good in some
>of the characters in every book I read of his. Bucky and Lee might not have
>been saints in BLACK DAHLIA, but at least they were trying to bring a
>murderer to justice. Wasn't their supervisor a good guy? Same for the
>rest of the Quartet. And I think there was a guy or two in AMERICAN
>TABLOID who at least started out half-way good.

Allow me to quote myself at length again, since it is directly relevant to this statement:

"I read 'L.A. Confidential', and was, to be honest, disappointed, thinking that this was one of the few times where the film was actually better than the book on which it was based (Tom Clancy's 'Patriot Games' being another telling example of this). I then took a chance on 'My Dark Places', which was brilliant (and disturbing). Next I went back and re-read 'The Black Dahlia', which stood up well to this renewed scrutiny. Following that I gave 'The Big Nowhere' a shot, and couldn't finish it. The same went for 'Brown's Requiem' (although I really enjoyed his discussions of classical music contained therein). I got part way in to 'White Jazz' before the whole incest subplot became too much for me to bother with, and got in the way of my enjoyment of what might have been good prose.'

"I'm not saying that Ellroy isn't a good writer. I'm saying his work is uneven. As he has become more succesful, along with the Proustian 'come roll around for a while in my just-used bath water' sensibility, I have noted a developing sense of self-consciousness in his work. As this self-consciously pretentious tone has evolved, the quality of his work has (at least for me) eroded considerably."

So there you have it, Mike. I mentioned "The Black Dahlia" specifically, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it was because the characters Bucky and Lee where pretty human.


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