RARA-AVIS: Re: Ross Macdonald

From: robhenryson ( msharp@binghamton.edu)
Date: 02 Dec 2004

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "Bill Crider" <bcrider@h...> wrote:
> Hey, Michael. My favorite paragraph in Macdonald's work is the last one in
> THE DOOMSTERS. Maybe not the best. Just my favorite.
> Bill Crider

Hey, Bill. I can't seem to find my copy of The Doomsters anywhere (although I'm literally surrounded by old paperbacks). Could you transcribe the paragraph in question? I remember it vaguely, or the last page, anyway. The only quotation I have from it is the one I used in my article:
"I don't hate you, Mildred. On the contrary."

I was an ex-cop and the words came hard. I had to say them, though, if I didn't want to be stuck for the rest of my life with the old black-and-white picture, the idea that there wer just good people and bad people, and everytyhing would be hunky-dory if the good people locked up the bad ones or wiped them out with small personalized nuclear weapons.

I know this is *not* the paragraph in question; still, it shows clearly some of what I mean about RM. The voice wants desperately to be hard-boiled but instead is quite preachy. Your detective should not be telling you these things -- the *action* and *dialogue* in the story should illustrate them and make them readily apparent. "Hunky-dory" hurts my ears, though I see it's being used a bit ironically here (mocking an imagined voice); and the final exaggeration is not funny (though when Michael Nesmith does a skit called "Neighborhood Nuclear Superority" in the vastly underrated "Elephant Parts," somehow the concept is hilarious). I just find the weary avuncular figure of Archer very tiresome. BUT ... Hey, I found _The Moving Target_: hang on, I'll try to find a passage I like... OK, this isn't bad:
****** I followed her into the hallway. It was thick with darkness and her two odors, musk and alcohol, half animal and half human. I felt slippery waxed floor under my feet and wondered if she'd fall. She moved in her own house with the blind accuracy of a sleepwalker. I felt my way after her into a room to the left, where she switched on a lamp.
****** I like how the paragraph goes from light to dark to light; I like the phrase "her two odors"
'cause its odd and it makes a nice counterpart to "darkness"; I like how hyper-aware he is of her -- conveys his fascination *and* uneasiness; and the "blind accuracy of a sleepwalker" line is pitch-perfect -- it even sounds good.

There's an obsession w/ breasts in this book -- I've marked many, many times (so maybe it's *my* obsession...?) where Archer notices and remarks on women's breasts in this book, many of the times quite ... unflatteringly. In fact, there are some passages of outright hostility toward women in this book ("It seemed to me then that evil was a female quality, a poison that women secreted and transmitted to men like disease"). I find this odd, given Archer's alleged "compassion," and the fact that Marlowe is usually the one singled out as misogynist (by Mike Davis if I remember correctly, among others). There's also lots of mean stuff about the "dried up" bodies of old ladies in RM's _The Chill_, I remember. So ... maybe Archer had his own, I don't know, prejudices? bitternesses? Which I don't mind at all. I only wish they were more apparent (and interesting) in the later novels
(60s-70s). More questionable behavior, less preaching, that's what I say.

I'll look for the Doomsters.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 02 Dec 2004 EST