Saturday, February 7, 2009

Ross Macdonald

Dalling was frank almost to the point of fruitiness. Starting from the assumption that no man could like him in any case, he said, he figured he might as well be himself. He had nothing to lose." -- The Way Some People Die (1951)
Resonates with a quotation I've always liked but have never been able to place: "He doesn't have to act cool. He is cool."
"Some of my colleagues think that The Way Some People Die is the best of my twenty books." -- Ross Macdonald.
UPDATE: One reason this one is refreshing is its comparatively gritty tone. The settings are worlds away from the invariable milieu of brittle Santa Barbara brahmins, people who have combed everything unruly out of their existence, which can be a tad monotonous even in Macdonald's most admired novels. In THWSPD Archer spends a fair amount of time digging through skid row looking for a runaway, recording the details of the lives of drug addicts and "dipsos." These chapters have the local color, time capsule interest of some crime films shot in LA in the same period, such as Kiss Me Deadly.
Inside [the arena], a match was under way. A thousand or more people were watching the weekly battle between right and wrong. Right was represented by a pigeon-chested young Mediterranean type, covered back and front with a heavy coat of black hair. Wrong was an elderly Slav with a round bald spot like a tonsure and a bushy read beard by way of compensation. His belly was large and pendulous, shaped like a tear about to fall. The belly and the beard made him a villain.
Reading this one for the first time, rather than re-reading The Chill (as great as it is) for the third or fourth, could be the pulp fiction equivilent of getting out more.

7 comments:

Tulkinghorn said...

Begs the question:

Why read pre-sixties Ross MacDonald?

c said...

reminds me of that dialog from the party

Actor1 Beg your pardon?
Actor2 : beg.

Generic said...

You read it because it's all good, if not equally favored by consensus.

c said...

talk is cheap.

i prefer it when they beg the question...abjectly

Andy Klein said...

As much as I prefer the period that starts with The Galton Case, I agree that the early MacDonald is mostly excellent, but in a different way.

I will not suppress my pedantic streak for a moment (if ever), however: "begging the question" used to have a specific, useful meaning -- having nothing to do with the current "forcing one to ask" -- whose loss I miss.

Generic said...

"Sometimes to beg the question is used to mean "to raise the question", or "the question really ought to be addressed". [6] An example of such a use would be, "This year's budget deficit is half a trillion dollars. This begs the question: how are we ever going to balance the budget?" Although proponents of the traditional meaning will criticize this formally incorrect usage, it has nonetheless come into widespread use and in informal contexts may actually be the more common use of the term. The phrases circular reasoning, circular logic, and circular arguments have come to be used in places where logicians would tend to use "beg the question."

Manduck gestures hypnotically.... said...

Andy's right and that pretentious windbag Tulkinghorn has finally fucked-up.