RARA-AVIS: Recent read: Charles Willeford, Pick Up (SPOILER)

From: scatalogic@aol.com
Date: 15 Nov 2007

BEWARE SPOILER DO NOT READ IF YOU MIGHT WANT TO PICK UP PICK UP Which I think you should if you like David Goodis and Derek Raymond or even Charles Bukowski.
  Hellooooo Doomed Losers on the edge of Society!
  I read this as part of the No Exit Press' Charles Willeford Omnibus, which also features the Burnt Orange Heresy (what a magnificent title that is) and Cockfighter and is flippin' good value.
  This was my first Willeford and I shall probably contine through the omnibus
(after a rest in lighter climes) as a result.
  I enjoyed this - I enjoy doomed outsider novels (I have pretentions in that direction myself). Willeford writes of the dregs of society and alcoholism convincingly with crisp prose and the (genuinely shocking) twists are well placed in the narrative to keep you turning pages. It's a first person narrative and pretty damned dark - there's lots of talk of suicide, failure and the futlity of life, which could have become relentless drudgery without the well-timed plot turns. I like this sort of thing but I can imagine it becoming wearing pretty quickly if you're turned off by the innebriate life and its livers
(ahem). Jordan's prison/hospital/court experience is a little Kafkaesque (I guess very intentionally, there's a definite existentialist feel to the whole book fun fans). Here's a nice line, Jordan is asked by his lover Helen if he has a headache: he replies "No, I was just thinking what a rotten stinking world this is we live in. This isn't our kind of world, Helen. And we don't have the answer to it either. We aren't going to beat it by drinking and, yet, the only way we can possibly face it is by drinking!"
  I don't know what other Avians think of the final twist, the revelation that Jordan is black - it certainly made me put the book down a little stunned and suddenly view it all in a different light and then, bizarrely feel a little tricked by and annoyed at the author. I guess it's of its time, 1955, and place - racial politics haven't yet been such an issue in the UK as they have in the USA - but would the book have been any less satisfying without it? I don't think so, our hero is a classic outsider as it is, but, hey, it's certainly an interesting device - I think I have come across this device somewhere else, possibly in a Ray Bradbury story but I'm not at all sure.
  Cheers all,
  Join my Church: www.myspace.com/thereverendspadgedooley


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