May 13, 2003

About the Elliot Paul                        No relation to "The Red
book, "The Black                             and the Black", I'm sure.
and the Red" (1956).
This is another entry in the
Homer Evans series that
includes such classics as
"Murder on the Left Bank" and
"The Mysterious Mickey Finn"...

   One gets the sense
   that he was trying
   to keep up with
   Hjalmer shot for
   shot while writing                 Paul has an odd way of
   this one.                          repetitiously bringing
                                      up funny hats again and
   For example, there's               again:
   this bit where he's
   talking to Kid                       "so says Scott Jordan,
   Unamuno over                         the freak who can
   walkie-talkie, so                    detect pipssisewa, but
   they use theatrical                  knows not of vino..."
   script style in a
   bold typeface.                       These become an almost
                                        musical refrain.
   Then later on, he's
   hanging around                       It's reminiscent
   talking to Miriam                    of fairy tales,
   and for no reason                    which are          Actually, it's
   the narration shifts                 after-all          reminiscent of
   into the same style.                 ostensibly         Homer...
                                        designed for
                                        the young and      FORBIDDEN_PLANET
   Throughout the book                  slow on the
   the narrator seems                   uptake.
   to be using a very                                   13CLOCKS
   odd high-falutin/
   intellectual tone,                            (As opposed to
   as though it's                                "best-sellers"
   narrated by Homer                             which are for
   Evans himself, a                              the old and
   more flowery Homer                            slow...)
   Evans, speaking
   about himself in the
   third person.

   What's even odder is when
   different random characters
   suddenly start speaking this
   way also, including random

   In one bit, we have a
   sand-rat prospector begin
   discoursing learnedly about
   the expected density of
   rattle-snakes in Nevada, in
   much the way you would
   expect Evans to do, except
   that he's using a heavy sand
   rat accent to do it in.

How does Homer Evans talk?

He's supposed to be a cosmopolitan
intellectual, a gastronomic expert,
a genius-level detective.

He's inclined to lecture a bit,
in a discursive way, with a            "Ossip's disregard for rules or
calm, indolent, philosophical          principles is Ossip's major
attitude.                              fault, his Achilles heel," Homer
                                       said.  "Anarchists have many
                 HIPSTERISM            more accidents than their
                                       statistical share."  p. 214

The narrative Voice:

Chapter one:
"The Rosy-Fingered Dawn Vies with Neon Signs":

   "When the goddess Aurora, harbinger of light
   and easy transition to activity of day-faring
   beasts and the less fortunate of men, took
   her initial peep over ancient foothills and              Clear reference
   noticed Las Vegas, Nevada, one fair Friday in            to (satire of?)
   November, A.D. 1954, she was more pleased                Homer, if not
   than indignant.  True, the neons were blazing            Homer Evans...
   in most of the hues and colors God overlooked
   in His primitive spectrum.  Gamblers,
   prospectors, tourists, Indians, hoods,
   wheels, business magnates, show people, hotel
   folk, beauties, bums and a sprinkling of
   citizens (and most of those asleep in
   ordinary beds) but enough to supply the weird
   ensemble with officials, clerks, services,
   articles and a civic background, were tooting
   and convoluting in and around de-luxe palaces
   of chance and proletarian hangouts for the
   lower brackets.  So in those parts, Aurora,
   with her tinted clouds, her scented hush and
   stillness, her subtle crescendo of natural
   light, which elsewhere served to warn people,
   fauna and flora of an impending day, for
   better or for worse, had quite another
   function.  Dawn, in short, was but a warning
   signal, scarcely noticed by the losers and
   not much more by the winners, or those who
   were even, on dead center for the moment."

There we go, right from the outset,
and it only barely lets up throughout.

This is evidently a light-weight,
frivolous comedy, and one might ask
why I can read it at all, because
I often hate this kind of thing.

   In the world of "The Black and the Red",
   our heroes constantly wink at death.
   They barely blink at a neat bullet hole
   appearing in a windshield.

   Evans doesn't panic when a friend is taken
   hostage, and reacts so calmly that his other
   friends begin to wonder what's wrong with
   him (but it turns out that All Is Under Control).

Tragedy is supposedly uplifting
and Comedy is deflating, but
that is not the experience of
reading a book like this.

The sense that nothing matters
much can be paralyzing ("Oh, why
bother?"), but it can also be

    What are you worried about?
    Might as well dive into the fray.
    Lets get some action around here.

Could there be a serious
thrust underneath the

   Light "escapist"
   fiction?  But it
   isn't about
   running away.                                 Another way I've said this:

     It can't be said to be                          I intensely dislike
     realistic, but that                             the philosophy of
     doesn't mean that it's                          "escape fiction":
     not addressing something                        it's very clear to
     real... it projects an                          me that fiction (no
     attitude toward life.                           matter how
        "Escape" doesn't                             "light-weight") is
        really describe                              about approaches to
        it. "Engagement"                             life, not running
        is closer.                                   away from it.

                 Retreating to
                 counter-attack?                FORGET_PLAY

   "From such unliterary oaks, acorns of romance
   bud, develop and, devil take the arrangement,
   eventually drop, if the squirrels do not get
   them first."
                                    p. 173

   "Since Hjalmar got started first, let us first
   spy on him in that miraculous way our Father
   in Heaven has granted us, I mean, through the
   gift of a writer to be omnipresent,
   omniscient and invisible, and that of the
   reader, if he is worthy enough, to catch the
   drift of prose, and supply the predicate of
   appreciation to the writer's subject of
   inspiration.  None of this is to be taken
   lightly, if at all."
                                    p. 183