Posts from 16th April 2005

Apr 05

Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 248 views

Unless the search is failing me, I haven’t reviewed anything by him here before. He’s a writer I love, another of that breed of crime writers who isn’t up to much if what you want is a mystery with clues that you can try to solve alongside the brilliant detective. Some bad stuff has happened, usually relating back to or simply dating back to a time decades ago (in this one, regular narrator and cop Dave Robicheaux’s mother’s death), and we gradually flesh out some details, but there is no real mystery involved. The story tends to be about dealing with the shitstorm that gets kicked up, mostly pretty deliberately by Dave and his best friend, a disgraced and violent ex-cop named Clete, and the corruption and evil in high places that gets gradually revealed. The tensions in this one, and this is more or less similar in the others, are to do with a hired killer of complex and ambiguous intentions, and whether Dave and his family can survive that; and what will happen to the guilty bigwigs. It always feels as if there are about even chances of their: getting away with it; getting jailed; getting killed by one of other bad guys; or getting killed by Dave and/or Clete. The last is the greatest tension. You can be pretty sure that Dave will survive, after all, but he is a man with a major temper, demonstrated in ill-judged and ill-timed ways at least once a novel, and an appalling alcoholic past, and he takes nearly everything personally.

All this is good and compelling, and it says something about his ability with characters that the personality of the hit man in this story seemed like no one I had seen in fiction before, and also completely believable and fascinating. But the best thing about Burke, for me, is his prose. He has a very good ear for dialogue, and knows how to make his writing tight and atmospheric, but he is also one of the best I’ve ever read – no genre cavils there – at descriptive writing. These tales are set in the Louisiana bayous near New Orleans, and that territory is highly evocative, and he brings out every bit of rich emotional and scene-setting power on offer. I think he’s one of the all-time greats of crime writing, up there with Chandler in particular, and a major writer in any terms.

The Rules of Porn

Do You SeePost a comment • 4,177 views

Warning: explicit content. In case the title wasn’t a clue.

I saw an ad for a Channel 5 show about plastic surgery the other day, and it seemed to think it was a surprise revelation that big breasts are popular in porn. I know that we aren’t supposed to admit to liking porn (it’s something you ‘use’, like an illegal drug) but I figure as a single man living alone with broadband, who would be dumb enough to believe I never looked at it? You may not know that there are countless portal sites (if ‘porntal’ hasn’t been coined, I have just done so), often breaking tens of thousands of links down into categories, then providing a short description as the link. It’s my research in these sites, purely for the purposes of a short posting here of course, that led to me recognising some more surprising principles than ‘big tits are good’. Here is a top ten:

1. Every penis over 5″ long and 1.5″ circumference counts as a MONSTER COCK, and is visibly painful when inserted anywhere.

2. Any black cock counts as, at the least, huge.

3. Most lesbians have tongues just a fraction too short to actually reach their girlfriend (I imagine this is very distressing). Many other lesbians are unfortunately too poorly coordinated to move their hand out of the way, and find themselves licking their own fingers.

4. All lesbians like fucking men.

5. More than two people having sex is a wild orgy.

6. A woman with two men counts as a gangbang.

7. When you have a woman tied up, you never have sex with her (this one mystifies me – maybe I’m just not looking in the right places).

8. Women are happiest if, when you are going to come, you come in their faces. If this is difficult in the circumstances, coming over their back is almost as thrilling. Oh, and if the woman is wearing glasses, she is particularly pleased by the man ejaculating over them.

9. Any woman under 40 counts as a schoolgirl if she is wearing either a sweatband on her head (I don’t understand this signifier at all) or white socks. (St Trinian’s style school uniforms are surprisingly rare.)

10. Women count as lesbians if there are two of them naked or near-naked in the same scene, even if they show no interest in touching one another.

Who’s Who in the Purple Gang

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 420 views

I was reading Revolution in the Head, and the writer told me that the song You?ve Got to Hide your Love Away had no queer content at all?and I always thot it was the most queer song in pop before the rainbow broke ca 1970, reading the lyrics again and talking to the always astute Martin Skidmore, he called the lyrics of you?ve got to hide your love away slight?that it was almost impossible to read anything into it. We didn?t really talk about Jailhouse Rock

Jailhouse Rock works as both coded and uncoded—lines like ?Number forty-seven said to number three:/You?re the cutest jailbird I ever did see./I sure would be delighted with your company,/Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me” abut lines about slide trombones and purple gangs. It is unequivocal in its celebration of sodomy. But it is sodomy in a prison, a signifer of appropriate same sexual activity. (at least outside of prisons–i am talking generalizations here)

You?ve got to Hide your Love Away is filled with filling ins and legends?how it is a secret anti-love song concerning john lennon, brian Epstein and a beach in spain?but there is nothing at all said in the work at all. There is no reason given and everything is hidden. The reflection of middle class sexual identities as a binary of homosexual and heterosexual could exist here, with the langageu of secerts and desire placed somewhere in the middle. Or it could not.

The ambiguity then, of desire, the complications of finding love outside an approite milleiu, make the beatles song deeply queer?but it is not something Richardson notices, as astute a critic he is in dealing with musical minutiate, he doesn?t plumb well the emotional kind.

the question, then, i guess–is why do we assume that ambiguity means complexity and not just poor writing ?