Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tulkinghorn sez: Choose your fantasy

I had a conversation over lunch yesterday with a good friend who has indulged, perhaps unwisely, on too many mopey detective novels.

With particular reference to Ian Rankin, he noted that

" They're all fantasies, you know.... But Rex Stout admits it and at least gives you a good time. Guys like Rankin give you fantasies that are grim and depressing -- unrealistically so -- while claiming an unearned profundity."

Right. So. Choose your fantasy. Resist the grim. Habituate yourself to the vast -- or at least to the enthusiastic.

By wonderful coincidence, I found the antidote to the grim just a couple of hours later. A new touchstone.

Floating in the pool, recovering from lunching too well, I read the following in a Penguin Classic collection of the Arsene Lupin stories ("Arsene Lupin, Gentleman-Thief", written in the early years of the twentieth century by Maurice Leblanc). Among other things, it's the best seduction of the year:

" That is life," he said. "When one knows how to use one's eyes. Adventure exists everywhere, in the meanest hovel, under the mask of the wisest of men. Everywhere, if you are only willing, you will find an excuse for excitement, for doing good, for saving a victim, for ending an injustice.

She murmured:

"Who are you exactly?"

"An adventurer. Nothing more..... Life is not worth living except in moments of adventure... Become the companion of my adventures. If anyone calls on me for help, help him with me. If chance or instinct puts me on the track of a crime, or the trace of a sorrow, let us both set out together. Do you consent?"

"Yes," she said....

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