Re: RARA-AVIS: James Ellroy Reading

From: Patrick King (
Date: 16 Oct 2010

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    Thanks for a fascinating review, Raymond.

    Patrick King

    --- On Fri, 10/15/10, TAIT RAYMOND <> wrote:

    > From: TAIT RAYMOND <>
    > Subject: RARA-AVIS: James Ellroy Reading
    > To:
    > Date: Friday, October 15, 2010, 12:17 PM
    > I attended a reading by James Ellroy
    > last week on 5 October at the Cambridge
    > Union here in Cambridge, England.  The reading took
    > place in the main
    > chamber which you can see pictures of here:
    > When I went in to take a seat people were sitting on both
    > sides of the
    > chamber with a lectern placed in the middle just in front
    > of the ‘big red
    > chair’ so that he would have been facing down the middle
    > of two rows of
    > seats opposite each other.  A little while before the
    > scheduled start time a
    > young woman came in and asked everyone on one side to move
    > to the other so
    > that they could move the lectern and he could face one side
    > of the chamber.
    > An audience of 100 or so gathered.  Just after 7.30
    > she came back and gave a
    > brief introduction before asking us to welcome James Ellroy
    > who entered and
    > took up his position.  He is a very striking
    > man!  He also dresses well and
    > that night was wearing a more casual outfit than I might
    > have expected:
    > Sleeveless dark grey pullover, long sleeved reddish shirt
    > with a nice
    > pattern, white trousers and what appeared to be
    > trainers.  It all looked
    > good anyway.
    > He began with a very theatrical introduction where he spoke
    > about being in
    > Cambridge, quoted a chunk of TS Eliot and then something
    > else that I didn’t
    > recognize before addressing the audience more
    > informally.  He explained that
    > he was going to read five short pieces from The Hilliker
    > Curse and then we
    > would be able to ask questions.  At some point during
    > all this he went off
    > on a bizarre riff about how if we all bought 1,000 copies
    > of the book or
    > something like it we would be able to have unlimited sex
    > with anyone we
    > wanted forever.  It was a bit more complicated than
    > that with separate
    > stages but didn’t quite come off in my view.  He
    > also gave us a variation on
    > this which every audience gets: ‘Good evening peepers,
    > prowlers, pederasts,
    > panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I'm James Ellroy, the
    > demon dog, the foul
    > owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far
    > right, and the slick
    > trick with the donkey dick. I'm the author of 16 books,
    > masterpieces all;
    > they precede all my future masterpieces.’  He told
    > the story about his
    > mother asking him on his tenth birthday who he wanted to
    > live with, her or
    > his dad, and how she hit him when she said his dad. 
    > And how he invoked the
    > Hilliker curse as a consequence.
    > Then the reading.  He reads in quite a unique way,
    > more like a poet than a
    > novelist - phrases hurled out in a very declamatory way
    > with pauses in
    > between.  I wasn’t entirely sure this worked until
    > he came to the fourth or
    > fifth passage which is written in a ‘he said, she said’
    > form where I thought
    > it came off really well.
    > And then the questions and answers section which was of
    > course the highlight
    > of the evening.  They covered the following territory
    > Who is the Blood the Rover dedicated to?  I can’t
    > remember exactly what was
    > said but I think it was the woman who was the ‘she’ in
    > the passage he read
    > from The Hilliker Curse.  This was the first question
    > from a woman who is a
    > big fan and had read all his books.  It developed into
    > a fairly lengthy
    > dialogue between them.  Who knows, maybe they spent
    > the night together?
    > Something about Closure.  There is no such thing as
    > closure says JE.  He
    > spoke about the influence of the death of his mother and
    > then told a sort of
    > joke.  He would like to meet the person who invented
    > sex and ask what
    > project they are working on now.  And he would like to
    > meet the person who
    > invented the concept of closure and shove a plate up their
    > ass.
    > Does he have any influence over film versions of his
    > novels? No.  He went on
    > to talk about how films are like hamburgers and he
    > doesn’t watch them.  He
    > explained that he doesn’t read newspapers, doesn’t
    > watch TV and doesn’t go
    > to the cinema.  Has no books in his home apart from
    > his own and one other
    > the identity of which I have forgotten.  And that
    > basically he lives in LA
    > of over 40 years ago in his head writing his books.
    > He mentioned Beethoven and someone asked what was so great
    > about him.  He
    > explained that Beethoven had revolutionized music in a way
    > that no other
    > artist has done with any other artform and spoke about the
    > greatness of
    > Beethoven’s late music and the importance of his
    > deafness.
    > I asked him about the extent to which he believes the
    > events in American
    > Tabloid for example are the sorts of things which actually
    > occurred and the
    > extent to which they are a conscious exaggeration.  He
    > replied that he
    > didn’t want to seem glib but that he makes all that shit
    > up.
    > Someone else asked if he had ever had any legal comeback
    > from anyone.  He
    > said there had been one legal action where a researcher had
    > identified the
    > death of someone in one of his books but it turned out this
    > was another
    > person with the same name.  He said he wasn’t able
    > to talk about the
    > specifics.
    > Someone asked about Noir.  He said he wasn’t noir at
    > all.
    > Someone asked about Raymond Chandler.  The most
    > overrated writer in the
    > history of American literature. Terrible plots etc. 
    > Now Dashiell Hammett…
    > Does he believe in God?  Yes
    > Will he go to heaven?  Yes
    > After the questions he signed books for us with his
    > characteristic scribble.
    > I found him charismatic and intimidating, unique and
    > impressive.  I haven’t
    > read enough of his books to be able to assess his real
    > worth but having just
    > read American Tabloid for the first time which I think is a
    > huge novel in
    > every sense I mean to read more.
    > Raymond
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    > ------------------------------------
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