"Hi, Pot? Meet Kettle."
"Greetings pimps, punks,
panty-sniffers, puritans, pranksters, lyrical
gangsters, and spherical Gonsters."
That's how James Ellroy, the
demon dog of American literature introduced
himself to the Doylestown crowd at a showing
of the BBC documentary JAMES ELLROY'S FEAST
OF DEATH. Well, okay, it wasn't exactly
in those words, but you get the idea. Neo-hipster
rhyme pattern with words like "panty"
tossed in to shock the grandmotherly types
in attendance. Oh, and shocked they were.
In fact, for all her self-righteous
indignation, the grannie sitting a few seats
down from me did get in the evening's best
question something along the lines
of, "You're such a good writer, why
do you feel the need to curse so much?".
Not that it was a tough task, because the
whole evening left me rolling one question
over and over in my mind as I skipped the
book signing and trotted home to my cozy,
neo-hipster bachelor pad: "What's worse...
a room full of film geeks or a room full
of book geeks?"
Granted, it's not an easy
call. Having grown up with, hung out around,
and ahem been both during
my lifetime, I think I can honestly say
that book geeks are worse. They tend to
be loners whose only social interaction
comes from going to the bookstore, while
movie freaks tend to hang in packs, showing
off their creepy knowledge for those they
ride with. And before I go any further,
let it be know that I'm the proverbial pot
calling the kettle black. I'll admit that
I may be the worst kind of loser: a pop
culture-obsessed geek. My love of the obscure
and arcane doesn't stop with just one obsessive
topic... oh no, and there are times when
I wish, nay pray, that it did. Unfortunately,
from music to movies, toys to tv, I crave
it all. So do yourself a favor, don't engage
me in conversation about THE SIMPSONS toys
or the fact that there's a John Saxon action
Anyway, Ellroy rolled into
town to shamelessly plug his new book, THE
COLD SIX THOUSAND. It's the second in his
trilogy of novels detailing "men doing
bad things in the name of authority."
Or some pithy rap like that. Ellroy likes
nothing more than coming up with a cool
phrase and beating it to death. Which was
why the "live" portion of the
evening was a bit of a bust for me. If you'd
read any recent piece on the man
and they're hard to avoid when the Ellroy
PR machine kicks into gear or even
paid attention to the documentary that'd
just been shown, you got the jist of that
which is Ellroy: neo-hipster whose public
persona seems devoid of spontaneity.
The "pimps, punks, etc."
rap is repeated verbatim in the documentary.
His responses to audience questions are
shaped in such a way that he can pull stock
answers from his grab bag of tricks. But,
I guess this shouldn't come as a surprise
from a guy who writes his books thanks to
his detailed outlines and voluminous research.
Trust me, I'm not saying this
is a bad thing. Ellroy's LA Quartet is some
masterful storytelling, and his recent books
have demonstrated to me just how dumb I
really am... I've picked up AMERICAN TABLOID
(the precursor to SIX THOUSAND) several
times, and have had trouble following its
labryinth-like plotlines. But I'm tiring
of the Ellroy schtick: dead mom, weird dad,
Jack Webb book, blah, blah, blah. Is he
the only guy whose mother's murder remains
unsolved? No, but I'm sure he's the only
one who's had a half-dozen film or TV documentaries
made about him and the subject.
I'm sure THE COLD SIX THOUSAND
is an awesome read and I hope it sells tons
of copies. Full of staccato prose and hip
dialogue. But I think I'll pass. I'm still
waiting for the JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS
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