Bitter and twisted

I’m reading my first ever Raymond Chandler, and I must say the man writes like Bogart talks. At least, I suppose I always thought that those cheesy old detective films, that I’ve probably seen taken off more than actually seen, were a genre all of their own; that the movie people had created the atmosphere of smoky rooms and depressed people with gravelly voices. But Chandler’s whole tone is just one long sleazy draw on an extra-tar-filled cigarette. It’s great. He’s like Hemmingway, but with adjectives. I love Hemmingway because he’s such a bastard and he does it with so few words.

But it all just goes to make me feel I can’t possibly be a writer. There was this sentence, something like: “I felt like a half-digested meal eaten in a greasy-spoon diner.” I reread it in awe. I would have said “I felt awful.” Or “I felt horrible.” Or possibly “I felt exceptionally disgusting”, but never in a million years would I have come up with such a perfectly repulsive image. Or if I did, it would have been reworked to death and probably would just stand out as forced. But then, maybe Chandler started out with “I felt really rough” and rehashed and rehashed until he finally got what he wanted, the way I did with the sentence about my head and the pillow the other day.

Maybe I just have to work on my attitude, in order to acquire a voice that naturally comes out so bitter and twisted. And take up smoking.

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A doomed love

Beer, please. Where are you going with that pitcher, and can I come too?

What is it about Thursday night that makes me think it’s practically the same as Friday night? Until Friday morning, when I can tell perfectly well that it wasn’t. My head and the pillow share the last few tender moments of a doomed love, realised too late and over too soon. I know better than to try to swallow, because my throat is lined with sharp crackly paper, and I’m not exactly in pain but I know that there are at least four hours more of sleep that I was meant to have and it’s just cruel to make me get up now. An hour or so later I drag my sad self into work and droop at my desk, wondering if anyone would mind if I just put my head down and had a nap, and feeling that I’ve given hugely of myself by just turning up and certainly nobody could expect me to do actual work as well. I’ll just sit here and mope while the morning goes so terribly, terribly slowly.

The only thing I have to look forward to – apart from the distant, beautiful image of flopping onto my bed and conking out when the day finally ends and if I manage to make it all the way home, and definitely not going out to anybody’s wine-tasting birthday party tonight – is lunch, if the interminable morning ever gets itself to that point. Lunch, when my slightly icky stomach will be just about settled and starting to clamour for something crunchy and greasy and savoury, and even though over-indulgence was the genesis of this whole sorry state to begin with, I feel entitled to eat badly because one should listen to the body’s cravings and respect them: if I crave salt and fat it’s because I’m dehydrated and tired and also, incidentally, it’s flipping 9 degrees farenheit out there and if I’d had to walk to work my eyeballs would probably have popped out in the minus 15 degree windchill. Which is another good reason to store up some nice saturated fat in the subcutaneous layers.

Snow to snow



Here’s something I wrote earlier. Imagine it’s last November …
I have now lived in Pennsylvania, not quite a year, but from snow to snow. I have expanded my vocabulary with terms of metallurgy and Americana. Bullywraggle. Snickerdoodle. Molybdenum. I can identify the smell of skunk. (It’s not so horrible, but a little goes a long way. Especially on your tyres.) The children here get the first day of deer hunting season off school, because too many would miss it anyway when their daddies took them out for some seasonal shooting. There’s a whole section of our local Wal-Mart devoted to guns and the trappings of violence, and bright dayglo orange suits to wear when hunting so someone else doesn’t shoot you. I bake brownies out of a box.
That’s as far as I went with that. But it was nice while it lasted.
1:42 pm – 13 January 2004