Mrs. M is at the gym and the Spawn is in the city of her father’s birth, attending a training session for her new role as Grand Inquisitrix of her sorority chapter. I’m still receiving Little Steven’s Underground Garage via satellite, and thus far have seen no evidence of the dystopian hellscape that I was promised would begin yesterday — of course, that may just be because I don’t live anywhere particularly interesting. So while I wait for Mondoville to elect Riddley Walker as mayor, here are a few bits of this and that.
I’ve now met at least thrice with each of my classes, and I think it’s shaping up to be a good term — the kids are good, if a little groggy, in my classes, which meet during the first two class periods each day. As I point out to them, many of them haven’t even finished throwing up by 8 a.m. But thus far, they seem to be tracking with me pretty well, and I’ve seen more than the occasional signs of life from several of them, which always bodes well. It’s also nice to be teaching film noir in my Narrative Film class again. This past week was Double Indemnity, and this coming Wednesday we’ll do Out of the Past, which has become one of my all-time favorite movies over the years.
One of the things that interests me about Double Indemnity is the radical difference between the conclusions of the book and movie, a difference I think works in favor of Wilder and Chandler’s screenplay. Honestly, I tend to think that Cain wrote about 2.8 great books, with Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce getting the whole numbers. Unfortunately for this reader, Cain indulges his love of over-the-topness at the end of Double Indemnity, a problem for which I blame his love of opera. I think that what makes Cain’s best work succeed is the mundaneness of the world in which his stories happen. It’s a world of dust motes floating in the air of a suburban living room or marital infidelities in suburban tract homes, but at the end of Double Indemnity, he swings from his mythopoetic heels… and I think misses. Still, until the point at which the book and movie diverge, it’s a fine work.
On the other hand, another of my favorite crime writers, Jim Thompson, would go over the top in his best books as well, but it works, and I think it works because he’s not quite working in the world the rest of us see. Thompson’s world is a grotesque, even satirical one, and what seems bizarre and aberrant in a Cain novel seems to fit perfectly in Thompson’s best work. Kind of makes me wish I had put The Getaway on my syllabus.
The Berries are playing tonight at Greenville’s Radio Room, with another show next month in Columbia, and some other dates in the offing. I’ll keep you posted, and catch us if you can!
Well, it’s about lunchtime, so I’ll leave you with a bit of music. Once again, I turn to the Green Pajamas, who have filled a great deal of space in my personal rotation in recent months. This is from their 1990 masterpiece, Ghosts of Love, and it’s a beautiful bit of mid-tempo melancholy. Hope you like it.
See you soon!