In his poem “The Convergence of the Twain“, Thomas Hardy notes that both the Titanic and the iceberg it struck came into existence, brought together by the blind mover he called the Immanent Will, so that now they are inextricably linked. I don’t believe in Hardy’s concept, but I have to admit it has a certain resonance for me now.
I’ve been fascinated with crime fiction for most of my life, from the Three Investigators books I read as a kid to my discovery of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series via the TV series, and from there to folks including Lawrence Block, Jim Thompson, Jonathan Valin, and others, and I’ve even come to view things like Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale as a sort of medieval noir — indeed, the Pardoner himself would fit right into Gresham’s Nightmare Alley. When it comes to television, the familar “Doom-doom” stinger of the Law and Order franchises will guarantee my attention.
I guess it’s not surprising, then, that I write the stuff as well (although I started out writing science fiction, I drifted in this direction pretty quickly.) As I mentioned, I wrote Broken Glass Waltzes in the early 90s, but between then and now, the short stories I’ve written and the novel I’ve begun have been noirish too. Even my scholarly work has been concerned with how we understand and represent evil.
But one of the stranger aspects of my relationship to all this is how I deal with it after the murders of my mom and dad. The nastiness and horror, the numinosity of evil has moved from the theoretical to the practical in my life. But I keep reading about fictive evils, and with my writing, even imagine new instances of those evils.
When I mentioned to some friends that I was writing another crime novel a few weeks back, a friend of mine asked me if I was drawing upon “the elephant in the room.” I’m not, and don’t know when or if I’ll have the distance to treat it as … well, not material exactly, but as a conscious substrate of the fiction I write. And I certainly don’t think there’s a causal relationship between what happened three years ago and the stuff I wrote before or have written since.
I also don’t believe that what happened to my parents was something they brought upon themselves, karmically, psychically, or otherwise — the responsibility for their murders belongs exclusively to the person or persons who shot them. But still, I wonder if what drives my writing and has driven my reading and scholarship might be a shadow, a once-precursor, now-echo of this dark line that divides my life.
As I said, I’m not speaking of some causal relationship — it’s more like the implication of a connective thread, or the gravitational perturbations that imply the presence of an undiscovered mass. And I will continue to read what I read, watch what I watch, and write what I write. Bur nonetheless, there are times at which I wonder if the thread is there, or has been there, and how sensitive we may be to the bodies beyond our sight.
I think it was Martin Scorcese, maybe Brian DePalma, but anyway, said that film was canvas that supported violence well. Maybe, as an artist, you have an intuitive understanding of the toolkit for dark fiction. Go with your strengths and let the universe unfold as it has been for eons. A great man once told me that the universe was made up of “lines inkblots and turds.” I’m inclined to agree with him still.
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