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The Long Take
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9/19 The Long Take > Long Take - 1946 and 1948 (spoilers allowed)

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message 1: by Hugh (last edited Sep 02, 2019 01:00AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
This is the place for any comments on the first half of the book - please do not discuss events from the second half. A few starter questions: How do you feel about the mixture of prose and poetry? Did this make it easier or harder to read? How well do you think Robertson captured the sights and sounds of post-war America? Feel free to add any other thoughts on the first two sections.

Mark | 322 comments Wow! After a pedestrian Inland, Robinson's words were a pleasant surprise. This is going to be good.

One quibble - container parks weren't a thing until 20 years later, unless he's thinking of crates.

Mark | 322 comments Another quibble - how much air conditioning was there in 1948? It's mentioned twice.

But the main point of this post is the wonderful scene on P. 104:
nights out on the street,
sharpening now after the turn in the year, the air
loosened after the rain, the pavement black and glinting.
There were parts of the city that were pure blocks of darkness,
where light would slip in like a blade to nick it, carve it open:
a thin stiletto, then a spill of white; the diagonal gash
of a shadow, shearing; the jagged angle sliding over itself
to close; the flick-knife of a watchman's torch, the long gasp
of headlights from nowhere, their yawning light - then
just as quickly
their falling away:
closed over, swallowed
by the oiled, engraining, leaden dark.

The book presents images like first-run prints of the movies Robertson loves so well: Sharp and clear in the foreground; beyond, black.

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2713 comments Mod
Thanks Mark - on your air conditioning point, it is by no means impossible - see the history section of this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_con...

I am glad you are enjoying the book.

message 5: by David (last edited Sep 06, 2019 04:42AM) (new)

David | 242 comments I took a quick look at the two references to air conditioning and did a quick google and here is what I have come up with: Googling tells me that places like theaters have had AC since before the 1940s. The first mention of AC in the book is a reference to a rooftop AC machine right after Robertson mentions various theaters. This one seems to check out as legit. But the second mention of AC seems to be referring to a personal AC machine in an apartment. Such a machine was only invented in the 1940s, would have been uncommon even at the end of that decade, and probably something only the more well off would have. That reference seems more anachronistic.

Now all I need is for someone to point out a movie of that era, maybe one that Robertson refers to in the book, that shows personal AC units in apartments as being a thing that really did exist then....


Edited addendum - Just did a quick search and found this Time article. In short: theaters, yes; Walker's apartment, unlikely -- http://content.time.com/time/nation/a...

Edited addendum 2 - And now I just found an episode of the 99% Invisible podcast (#291) that is all about the history of AC. It says, "Early AC systems were massive, but by the late 1940s, Carrier and other companies were selling air conditioners that could fit in your window. But they were expensive, and it wasn’t clear at first that people would buy them." and "In 1960, 13% of homes in the United States had AC." -- https://99percentinvisible.org/episod...

Mark | 322 comments Hee hee, down in the weeds. That's the point, this is 1948, and personal AC would be a rarity. There's a book, Under the Red Sea Sun, that details life salvaging Massawa harbor during WWII. Personal AC figures importantly in that, but it was a tech miracle at the time. The AC is a bug of mine since I grew up in the '50's; I can even remember asking an operator for a phone number! It certainly doesn't change the story, any more than the reference to container parks on page 3. It does speak the the ongoing question of authorial knowledge. One of my primary enjoyments of reading is being transported to another time and place. I trust local authors from a period (say, Penelope Fitzgerald) in a way that I don't trust "historical" authors (e.g. Patrick O'Brian). As time winds on, history is catching up with me...

Back to the story: Walker's home (p.88):
He was used to his room at the Sunshine: walls
lined with brown paper, the all-night
fidget and fuss of the air-conditioning, the mice
scuttering in the ceiling space.
He'd bought a red geranium in a pot, for the table by the window.

and settling in - even a cat! (p.100):
The morning light blades into the room,
and he leans over for a cigarette.
The blinds make planes of sunlight and dust, slices of smoke.
Rita pours herself in through the window, claws
tickering on the linoleum, then stops to watch
a spider, winching itself down from the lampshade.
This is home.

but with intimations that unstoppable change is coming (p.103):
There was a new crack through the tiles in the bathroom,
running in a straight line from the window to the door.

...and another reference to earthquakes to clue in non-Californian readers as to why the crack might appear.

James | 69 comments Hugh wrote: "....... How do you feel about the mixture of prose and poetry?..."

I found the reflective ‘prose’ sections to be just as poetic as the main narrative poetry – in some cases, more so. They certainly have a rhythm even in some of the most innocuous sections as here where Walker’s home is described:-

“The chintz and antimacassars, the china figurines crowding the window-sills, all colours faded to pink, pale blue: photographs of the dead, slipped sideways in their mounts, cold as the tomb and never entered; the smell of wet ash, the gloom of gas-lamps”.

It gives a real impression of a home once well cared for with collections of ornaments and photographs but now somewhat neglected, no longer homely. Faded, cold, never entered, gloomy.

I do really appreciate these break-out sections – both the flashbacks and diary sections. They take you out of Walker’s ‘present’ and add real depth.

Kathleen | 279 comments I think I understand Mark's point (maybe because I too, remember asking an operator for a phone number!). In the beginning, the details Robertson brings out didn't feel authentic. I just wasn't transported--particularly to the time period. I didn't note down any specifics, just thought a capturing of the atmosphere of the time was missing something.

For me, this book got better and better as I read, as my focus moved from the time period to the specifics of the story,

message 9: by Sam (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sam | 203 comments I approached this novel differently from some of you so I had no problem with the anachronisms. Now let me see if I can explain that.
My thoughts were that Robertson was paying homage to a mythic Los Angeles and California, partially based in reality, but influenced and filtered by film, television, and literary content that created a psuedo-realistic perception for the mass that was exposed to such content in the twentieth century. For example, I grew up on the east coast of the States, but knew more about California than I did my home state due to television and movie content, but that content was highly romanticized or distorted. I watched Annette Funicello and Fankie Avalon cavort on surfer's beach in Beach Blanket Bingo 1965 and got this imagined sense of "Malibu Beach, " which at the time was little more than a few summer bungalows. It was only upon moving to California several years later that I could start discerning fictional from real. Part of the complexity in explaining this comes from the layer of reality that covers the fiction which is then further romanticized. For a further example within a brief three or four years of watching Beach Blanket Bingo, Charles Manson's group murdered Sharon Tate in Los Angeles. This very real event was sensationalized in more ways than I can count with the end result another layering of fact and myth. There are other examples, such as the factual Hearst kidnapping and later Los Angeles police shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army, footage of which is all over Youtube today. I am trying to convey that the L.A. that Robertson is drawing on is a meld of fact and fiction, a vision many of us would have had based on what we were exposed to in the twentieth century.
A number of writers had already started drawing on this blend of reality and myth. Fante and West are prime examples but Kerouac comes a little later and his California is based on the blend of myth and real. If we compare these to Robertson, we find Fante came to L.A. from Denver. West came there from New York. Kerouac though based in the east placed his fictions on a mythologized road or often set them in that imagined California. These writers depict a sort of dystopian vision of their settings which I think accounts for Robertson's similar view. So to get back on point, the anachronisms don't faze me, since I see Robertson evoking the facto-ficto L.A. of which I feel completely familiar, and the feeling or mood he suggests feels just right.

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