Thursday, May 15, 2014

James Ellroy on Dashiell Hammett

"Ridiculous coincidence and buffoonish contrivance cohere behind its force. Hammett's male-speak is the gab of the grift, the scam, the dime hustle. It's the poke, the probe, the veiled query, the grab for advantage. It's the threat, the dim sanction, the offer of friendship cloaked in betrayal. Plot holes pop through Hammett's stories like speed bumps. The body count accretes with no more horror than pratfalls in farce. It doesn't matter. The language is always there. The talk is richly textured and more than richly male, and the counterbalance renders it all real.

"It's the language of suspicion, alienation, and the big grasp for survival. It's a constant jolt of physical movement and conversation. Hammett's heroes move and talk, move and talk, move and talk. They are professional followers, entrappers, and interlocutors. They flourish in a context of continuous mendacity. They pride themselves on their lie-detection prowess. They go at professional liars with great zeal and find their own dissembling skills in no way disconcerting. It is a harrowing workday context. They have placed themselves in it consciously. It's an antidote to the squarejohn life and a daily gauntlet of stimulation. Hammett's workday men risk peril for trifling remuneration and never question the choice. They are lab rats in perpetual reaction to stimuli. They are ascetics tamping down emotional turbulence and willing it flatlined in the name of the job. The great satisfactions of the job are the mastery of danger and the culling of facts to form a concluding physical truth. These facts comprise the closing of the case and thus the story. Hammett's men stand hollowly proud in their constant case conclusions. They are in no way affirmed or redeemed. They have survived."

Friday, May 9, 2014

"plot holes"

I don't believe in the existence of "plot holes." For me the nature of imagination and "suspension of disbelief" preclude the possibility of plot holes, just as they make it possible for poetry to be written without Meter. Whenever one encounters an alleged "plot hole," one should consider that the writer(s) might have intended to give the story a shape different from what you've come to expect. Do "impressionistic" painters simply lack the skill to make images in one-point perspective? Most likely not. Rather, they are painting in a style -- and appealing to a taste -- which differs from that which insists that pictures must reflect sensate reality.