RARA-AVIS: Anyway, Goodis

From: Michael Robison ( miker_zspider@yahoo.com)
Date: 03 Jan 2007

First, thanks to everybody for all the recommendations on Bukowski. I've got three of his novels on order. The Beat goes on.

Anyway, Goodis. I suck at coming up with spontaneous comments but I'm going to give it a shot. Coming late to the hardboiled and noir genre, I spent several years moving about from author to author, and only coming back if I had to. So unlike a lot of people here who are well-read in Goodis, I only recently added Cassidy's Girl to Shoot the Piano Player.

I think that Shoot the Piano Player is a movie rename for a novel of his by a different title. The protag was very talented concert pianist. He's happy and all if wonderful and he says something that upsets his wife and she kills herself. He blames himself and abandons the piano and heads down a path of violence and self-destruction. He settles down a little and when the book starts, he's playing piano in a sleazy bar and keeping to himself. A woman stirs him from his apathy and he goes back into the violence business.

Goodis doesn't use a lot of words to describe the old hotels and sleazy bars his characters frequent, but he doesn't need many. He can dial a scene in in a couple short sentences. The people are the same. The lady contortionist who boarded in a room close to his is vividly done in a short paragraph. It's been a while since I've read this book, but I don't remember the female fitting femme fatale jacket very well.

In a big chunk of noir the protagonist heads towards his downfall for reasons of greed or lust, an escalating pattern of moral transgression. Cassidy's Girl breaks from this. Cassidy is a successful airline pilot, the clean-cut college graduate that all the good girls like. Then a plane goes down through no fault of his own and he takes the blame. As in Shoot the Piano Player, this drives the protag to violence, drinking, and slumming. Cassidy's Girl differs in that it has a genuine femme fatale. There is a fair amount of violence.

These books have a lot in common as far as plot, but the two books don't read like one. They are distinctly different. Both men start out successful and talented in a skilled job beyond blue collar. The both lose it and take up violence and slumming, and appear to do a damn good job at it. Alcoholism is a much stronger theme in Cassidy's Girl. I don't have the books here in front of me but I would guess that Cassidy's Girl came several years after the other one.

Both books were good, but I see Cassidy's Girl as the better book. It's more complex and the ironic twist at the end is wonderful. Because Goodis's books are short, he only fleshes out two or three characters solidly, but still doing justice to the secondary characters.

Man. I've written quite a bit here and said damn little. Haha! Par for the course. Let me wrap this up. In both books I think Goodis is definitely indulging in glorifying the situation in all its sordid splendor. Both protags are good fighters, and Goodis goes into detail about how well-built Cassidy is. The women are more than standard femmes fatale. I see Cassidy as having parallels to Job. For the most part, he doesn't deserve the bad that comes his way. I'm not sure about Doris in the novel. I get the feeling that she's been unfairly written off at the end of the book. I suspect a bit of sloppiness here, but the jury is still out on that.


__________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around http://mail.yahoo.com

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 03 Jan 2007 EST