An impressive work for Jim Thompson - just dropped Tavernier's Coup de Torchon, the French film adaptation, into my Netflix queue. With Thompson's scr...moreAn impressive work for Jim Thompson - just dropped Tavernier's Coup de Torchon, the French film adaptation, into my Netflix queue. With Thompson's screenwriting credits - Path's of Glory, Killer Inside Me - and the generally cinematic adaptability of his work, can't wait to see how Tavernier attacks the delusional transformation at the core of the book, adapting what many would see as a very American story in a very American genre to French colonies.
The story is simple: ignorant, exploited, and harmlessly crooked small-town policeman begins to see the truth of his situation and take revenge. Falls in the tradition of works that examine the hollow or rotten core at the center of public life ... or almost all human interaction. Particularly ripe in examinations of small town life. Think anything from The Scarlet Letter, to Twin Peaks, or Haneke's White Ribbon. But add a Cape Fear style layer of delusional divinity and retribution, wielding a scythe as the right hand of God. But the humor and language set it apart. Rather than describe, I offer a few examples:
"I'd been chasing females all my life, not paying no mind to the fact that whatever's got tail at one end has teeth at the other, and now I was getting chomped on."
Or, more elaborately:
"There were the helpless little girls, cryin' when their own daddies crawled into bed with 'em. There were the men beating their wives, the women screamin' for mercy. There were the kids wettin' in the beds from fear and nervousness, and their mothers dosin' 'em with red pepper for punishment. There were the haggard faces, drained white from hookworm and blotched with scurvy. There was the near starvation, the never bein full, the debts that always outrun the credits. There was the how we gonna eat, how we gonna sleep, how we gonna cover our poor bare asses thinkin'. The kind of thinkin' that when you ain't doing nothing else but that, why you're better off dead. Because that's the emptiness thinkin' and you're already dead inside, and all you'll do is spread the stink and the terror, the weepin' and wailin', the torture, the starvation, the shame of your deadness. Your emptiness.
I shuddered, thinking how wonderful was our Creator [...]" (less)
With Too Loud a Solitude, Hrabal is now 2 for 2 with me. Not only great books, but books that connect with me personally. I find something of myself i...moreWith Too Loud a Solitude, Hrabal is now 2 for 2 with me. Not only great books, but books that connect with me personally. I find something of myself in the protagonists ... neither heroic nor anti-heroic, caught up in and embracing routine but without the absurd entrapment and paranoia found in Kafka, seeking (or maybe inherently predisposed to) isolation and solitude amidst not only other people but amidst things that impose connections with the outer world. On that last point, you've got the books obsession in Too Loud a Solitude and the waiter / hotelier of I Served the King of England, but the books, the patrons only exist as part of the protagonists inner life - he's a black hole (or maybe an alternate dimension) that absorbs these things. (The choice of a waiter is really appropriate because that existence / non-existence is on both sides of the servant / served divide - neither is really supposed to intrude on the other, but supposed to be some kind of functional cypher.) At the end of Served, Ditie comes to love / understand / empathize with the world, long to be a part of it (literally, to decompose into it), but he does this in isolation from other people, from people that attempt to draw him in or find a way into his world but cannot ... alone with his animals, his wilderness, his road that absorbs all his labor not to extend or improve but so as not to disintegrate. I'm always drawn to these man out of place or out of time stories / artists - anachronisms or anatopisms (I made that word up - is there a word for out of place) of times and places that never really existed outside of your internal chronology / topology.
Last thought, flashing back to my reference of Kafka. There are obvious similarities but the difference, if I had to boil it down to a few points is that where Kafka is grotesque, Hrabal is tragicomic; where Kafka is external, Hrabal is internal. (less)