Friday, March 11, 2011

Forgotten Books Down There David Goodis

Goodis is hardly forgotten these days, and this is one of his better-known books, but what the heck. I'm talking about it, anyway.

The truth is, I've never been as fond of Goodis as a lot of people. I find many of his books wordy and sometimes plodding. I don't think anyone every mentioned "show, don't tell" to Goodis, and his writing style doesn't appeal to me.

But if you're looking for bleak and depressing, you've come to the right place. Eddie's a piano player in a cheap bar. Once he'd been in the big time, but his wife's suicide began his slide to the bottom. One night his brother shows up. He's in a jam, and he needs Eddie's help. No good deed goes unpunished (especially in a Goodis book), and Eddie's helping his brother leads to his killing someone. This leads to even more complications, and to the big shoot-out at the end.

I once called Goodis a naturalistic writer in the tradition of Frank Norris, who liked to show characters as pawns at the mercy of forces they can't comprehend. Or as Gloucester puts it in King Lear, "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,/ they kill us for their sport."

As usual in Goodis, things don't end well, certainly not in this case. I wouldn't advise reading Down There if you're feeling at all depressed. Wait until you're on a high and need something to bring you down. Down There should do the trick.

8 comments:

  1. Don't think I have ever been on a high and needed something to bring me down. Interesting.

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  2. Anonymous7:51 AM

    So when you win the lottery and don't want to go too crazy, read Goodis?

    Jeff

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  3. So someone on Death Row could read Goodis and think "things could be worse" eh?

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  4. Rick, that reminds me of another great line from Lear: "The worst is not/ so long as we can say 'This is the worst.'"

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  5. Gerard9:12 AM

    Recommended for Charlie Sheen.

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  6. Wow. Sounds really snappy!

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  7. The thing about Goodis is that, like Shakespeare, he can find nobility in ignominy. That's quite a tall order for a writer of 2-bit paperbacks, but he manages to infuse his laborers, drnks and derelicts with an intriguing pulpy heroism. No noble savages these, but heroes fit for adventure,who find themselve equal to the task, even as they fail on their own terms.

    You should also look at the movie Truffaut madde from it, SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER.

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  8. Goodis knew what Bad was.

    Yes, I'm practicing for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

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