Friday, June 19, 2015

Unsolved Mysteries

Do you know how some people are just effortlessly cool? Always really into odd, esoteric stuff, can always seem to find the most random, yet perfect quotes and references, and is always ready with a suggestion of something you have never, ever once heard of and yet, immediately must read/watch/buy? He had an odd predilection in high school to practically inhale full bags of Stella D’Oro breakfast treats and a love of Bob Ross that could not be explained (and yet made cool somehow), the person who recommended this book is that guy. I haven’t seen him in oh, about twenty years, but when he e-mails me with a suggestion for something, I always, always pay attention. You should do so now.  

#41 – My Dark Places – James Ellroy
Recommended by: JS

                Some kids found her.

This book was so hard boiled you could have dyed it for Easter. There are few adjectives or adverbs. The language is brutally simplistic and the sentence structure is that of a Dick and Jane book, if you like your primary reading to be about murder. The paragraphs are short. The sentences are shorter. There was almost no dialogue. The language, like the subject matter, is intense and vulgar. This is a dark book about dark people who did dark things.

I sort of loved it.

I haven’t read Ellroy’s well-known fiction such as LA Confidential or The Black Dahlia so I never would have picked up his autobiography. However, I think it is safe to say that this isn’t your typical navel-gazing. When he was ten, his mother was murdered. By his teens, he was on his own entirely, and by his 20s, he was a homeless drug addict. He spent all his time concocting stories in his head. Eventually, he cleaned up his act and turned the stories into books. The stories were his salvation. The stories were his best self, his only way out. In his 40s, he focused on trying to solve his mother’s murder.

It’s a hell of a book. Did I mention it was dark? Every sentence is blunt and hits you in the gut. There is no flowery language to soften the blows. The topic is hard so the language is hard. Yet the insights into character, while brief, were excellent. The location is described with few words, but all of them are well placed. You know where you are, you know who you are with, and you know why they are acting in such a way – all with the fewest descriptive phrases possible. It’s quite an achievement. This book reads like fiction, so if you like your books pulpy, full of crime, seedy streets, and the scum of the earth, then this book has your name all over it. (That last sentence is even more bizarre if you read it in a Levar Burton-Reading Rainbow voice.)

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