RARA-AVIS: Willeford thoughts

From: cs_will@btopenworld.com
Date: 09 Jul 2003

Miker wrote:
"I thought it was Willeford month, too, but it wouldn't make me unhappy to wait for the next month. That would give me time to read some more of WRITING AND OTHER BLOOD SPORTS and maybe even SIDESWIPE, NEW HOPE FOR THE DEAD, or SHARK-INFESTED CUSTARD. Oh! WOMAN CHASER, too. Yeah! Good feeling to have all those on the shelf waiting for me. Although I wish I had COCKFIGHTER, too. Can't have everything, I guess. "

I don't understand this Cockfighter reverence (I'm not saying you're revering Cockfighter, Miker, just that I detect that this novel tends to be lauded a bit). For me it's one of his weakest. That's probably a bit unfair. It's well written and paced and pretty interesting, but it's just a different sort of novel to the ones I like. My vote for best Willeford goes to Pick Up. It's often the last sentence which people talk about with this novel, which is unfortunate because the rest of it is such a great piece of noir. <SPOILER> It seems if an issue such a racism crops up it overshadows whatever else a novel might have to offer.</SPOILER>

Maybe I didn't get Cockfighter, but I didn't feel I got into the protagonist's head enough. I couldn't identify with him at all. OTOH I can identify with Hoke Moseley. But Hoke is fallible, as is Harry in Pick Up. The Cockfighter guy is a strong solid type. I think I'll always go for fallible and fucked-up above strong and heroic. In fact Cockfighter reminds me in some ways of those old Westerns where you have a man going to great and seemingly absurd lengths to achieve something that no one else can see the point of, until the end. Of course, it could be the Homer thing that taints it for me - in Cockfighter Willeford is constrainted by his efforts to re-tell the Oddessy myth, whereas in others he just writes what he writes.

Blimey, I do go on.

Charlie Williams.

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