It hasn’t been a hugely newsworthy week at the Mid-Century Mondohaus, which is fine by me. The drum hauler needed a new water pump and timing belt, and while that set us back almost $900, that’s cheaper than either a new engine or another car payment, and allows me to take my kit to next week’s gig in Real City. Thus, my plan to drive the thing until it pulls a One-Hoss Shay continues.
A crime-writing Facebook friend of mine is reading Mr. Block’s The Crime of Out Lives, and though it has only been a couple of months since I read it, and only slightly longer since its publication, I found myself giving it another look last night and this morning. Because the book is a compendium of articles, forewords, and the like, it’s a wonderful example of a book you can read in small bites, one or two essays at a time, spread over a long period. (Of course, between my reading speed and lack of self-control, I find I’m much more likely to take that approach the second or third time through a work. ) And so I read a bit last night and a bit (so far) this morning, and in LB’s appreciation of Raymond Chandler, I ran across this gorgeous little simile:
[Chandler’s] landscapes have the look of bad early Technicolor, at once faded and garish, like sun-washed cereal boxes in a shop window. [Emphasis mine — Mondo]
Not only is it a spectacularly good image, putting it in the context of a piece about Chandler seems to serve as a hat tip. Well played, Mr. B — as usual.
The preceding item may prompt a couple of you to ask (if you’ll permit me the egotism to assume you care), “If you comprehend the stuff you read the first time through, why do you need to go back and reread this stuff? Wouldn’t you get more of it if you read it more slowly? Would you need to reread it at all, then?”
I don’t really know. What I’ve noticed is that I tend to read things the first time on a level of plot or comprehension. My history seems to indicate that I do that well enough. Doubtless, had I been given a pop quiz after my first read of Crime of Our Lives, I would have passed. However, if I feel the urge to give a work a subsequent pass, that’s when I really start to notice the “writerly stuff.” It’s like looking at a painting, I guess: I’m not going to see it as a collection of brushstrokes and color choices the first time I look at it. I’m going to think, “Oh, this is a still life,” or a landscape, or (in less representative works) an expression of some feeling/idea/whatever. Then, if the painting interests me enough to look more closely, I’ll look at the technique, composition, or what have you.
In fact, with a book, I’m actually inclined to dislike writing that calls attention to itself in a manner that interrupts the story. I suppose my model is closer to what David Bordwell describes as the “classical Hollywood style” of cinema, where the audience is supposed to feel as though they are looking through the fourth wall, rather than being reminded that what they see has been mediated by a director, cinematographer, or whoever.
So anyway, there’s my answer to a question I get asked on occasion. Go figure.
It occurs to me that in less than a month, we’ll be packing the Spawn off to Flagship, where she’ll begin the next step. I find this exciting, but unnerving. Heaven knows where she stands on this. But as the saying goes, “A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” (Apparently John A. Shedd phrased it slightly differently, but I prefer the rhythm of my misquote. Sue me.)
As is my habit, I’ll close this entry with a bit of music. I first heard this song when I was in high school, I think, although it actually came out in 1979, when I was in eighth or ninth grade. As a drummer, I’ve always been impressed by the sparseness of Pete Thomas’s playing on this track, which suits the song’s skittery paranoia. So from Elvis Costello and the Attractions, here’s “Green Shirt.”
See you soon.