Monday, November 15, 2004

Miscellaneous: Quote of the Day

From THE SIMPSONS: “That’s so ‘90s! Let’s all move to Seattle and use slow modems!”

Yeah, what’s your point?

Book: Destination: Morgue!, by James Ellroy (2004)

Reading this collection of essays and short fiction was one of the more disturbing experiences I’ve had lately. And not entirely in a good way.

Ellroy’s tragic history – the murder of his mother when he was 10 and his subsequent tailspin into petty criminal behavior – has always informed his fiction, and he wrote about it directly in his 1996 memoir MY DARK PLACES. But since then, he’s basically stopped dissembling. There’s no longer any filter between fact and fiction.

For instance, the investigative piece ‘Stephanie’ follows three cold case detectives as they reexamine the 1965 murder of Stephanie Lynn Gorman. The same detectives, barely fictionalized, turn up in the trio of linked novellas that close the book, where they’re still on the hunt for Stephanie’s killer. Ellroy rehashes some of MY DARK PLACES in essays about the crimes that haunted his dreams as a child, and at the end of the book those very crimes inspire his fictional killers. We’re deep into his personal obsessions here, but without the artistry and distance that gave his breakthrough book THE BLACK DAHLIA its power. At times, the proximity to Ellroy’s secret self becomes uncomfortable.

The non-fiction is hit-and-miss. I agreed with his take on the Robert Blake case. I hope at some point Ellroy writes about Phil Spector. That sordid L.A. tale contains everything that interests him – celebrity, cruelty, and a good woman forgotten by the world.

This recent Guardian profile explains the Ellroy mystique. He gave me the thrill of swearing at me when I went to his last book signing. He shook my hand, then said, “Just let me get a bite of my fucking sandwich.” I’ll never wash my ears again.

Miscellaneous: Links

I can’t link to the Variety article about Ben Affleck’s latest ignominy. SURVIVING CHRISTMAS will be released on video on December 21 – a mere eight and a half weeks after it debuted in theaters. A new record. But I can link to this article about novelist Donald E. Westlake and his great success at the movies – in France.