Friday, July 21, 2017

FFB: Ross Macdonald's Inward Journey -- Ralph B. Sipper, Editor

Ross Macdonald isn't much read or discussed these days, and when I do see references to him by younger readers, they don't seem to be much impressed with his work.  That's quite a change from past decades, including the 1980s when Ross Macdonald's Inward Journey was published.  The book includes two previously unpublished essays by Macdonald himself and a short but quite poignant one by his wife, Margaret Millar; however in the main it's a tribute to Macdonald's life and work by other writers.  Those who don't think that Macdonald was one of the greats might want to consider what these writers have to say.  I'll give a few examples.

Robert B. Parker:  "It's not just that Ross Macdonald taught us how to write; he did something much more, he taught us how to read, and how to think about life, and maybe, in some small, but mattering way, how to live."

Thomas Berger:  "Ross Macdonald's work has consistently nourished me, at home and abroad.  I have turned to it often to hear what I should like to call the justice of its voice and to be enlightened by its imagination, and, not incidentally, superbly entertained."

Collin Wilcox: "I own Ken Millar more than I can ever repay."

Paul Nelson:  "I remember thinking we come to his novels for comfort in the disaster of our lives, knowing that he and Archer have seen us -- and worse than us -- and will dispense mercy and kindness or, if they turn us over, at least understand."

And so on.  Some of the writers were even inspired to write poems instead of essays.  I've been a fan of Macdonald's work since the first time I picked up one of his books, more than 50 years ago.  Reading Ross Macdonald's Inward Journey reminded me again of why I liked his work so much.  It might do the same for you.  And if you've never read his books, don't read this book first.  Read one of Macdonald's novels first.  The sooner, the better.

18 comments:

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I guess I missed this one when it came out, because it is not familiar at all.

August West said...

I started reading the Archer novels in the early 70s. Later in the 90s I read them all in order The Moving Target - The Blue Hammer one after another. I use to sneak into the bathroom at work with the paperback in my back pocket to get another chapter down.

Todd Mason said...

And I started with THE BLUE HAMMER, and wondered what the hell the people who were going on about what a disappointment it was even in the 1980s were thinking. (I read it in the late '80s, a chunk of it while waiting outside the 9:30 Club in DC because I was too tired to go into the punk rock concert my womanfirend Donna was attending, and the old, original 9:30 was kind of a small toilet, vs. the pleasantly cavernous new 9:30 of the last two decades, that one can see on the public broadcasting syndicated series, while there still are public broadcasters.

The old club stank, but the novel sure didn't. It was a whole lot of what Raymond Chandler didn't quite achieve, and is given credit for anyway, not least by Macdonald himself. Millar himself.

I'd say the short story collecting will do very nicely, as well.

Todd Mason said...

That's auto-correct, deciding my not quite collections should've been collecting.

Janis Gore said...

Y'all, which one would be best to begin with?

Bill Crider said...

If you want to start with the best, I recommend THE CHILL.

Janis Gore said...

I'm a pretty good student when I'm not distracted by interesting, handsome men. That Heathcliff-inspired, Saab-driving pianist in study hall blew my biology grade all to hell and back.

August West said...

My favorite is The Instant Enemy.

Deb said...

I don't think he gets credit for how smoothly he uses first-person narration. Archer can only know so much of what is happening in a given situation; McDonald does an excellent job of showing how Archer acquires information or logically pieces together what is happening without making it read like an info dump.

Janis Gore said...

Thank you, Mr. West, Mr. Crider. I have a thing for writers, too. As I say, I'm not much to look at, but I don't have any STDs.

Rick Robinson said...

Every time I see mention of Macdonald, I pledge to read one of the Archer novels I haven't yet gotten to. Then I forget... (how could I"). I've read about a third of them. So much good stuff waiting for me. I started reading them in order too, and ended up with the first three or four, then re-reading MOVING TARGET, then ZEBRA-STRIPED HEARSE, and a couple others. Must...get...caught...up.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I'd start at the beginning with The Moving Target. Otherwise, read The Chill or The Galton Case.

Don Coffin said...

I read most of Macdonald's Archer books, I think, pretty much in a big gulp beginning in the late 1960s (a "big gulp" means it took me almost a decade; I had grad school and getting started in my career to contend with). I certainly saw their virtues, but he was never a writer I returned to. I couldn't even say why, but having read them once, I have never had the urge to read them again.

Brian Busby said...

Macdonald is one of the greats. If anything, the recently completed three-volume Library of America set was overdue.

Mathew Paust said...

Soooo long ago I don't remember which ones I read, and too inexperienced to appreciate what I did read. Time to get back to Archer! Thanks, Bill.

Rick Robinson said...

...and so... thirty five pages into THE GALTON CASE. (It's in the omnibus ARCHER AT LARGE)

Thomas Miller said...

I read most of the Archer novels in the 1970s and loved every one.

Max Allan Collins said...

I am not among those who rank MacDonald among the greats. I have enjoyed his books and read them since around high school. My favorite, perversely, is THE BLUE HAMMER, because it allowed Archer to be a character and not a conduit. I like the early ones better, before they got repetitive. I agree with Chandler's (bitchy) assessment that he tried too hard, that the metaphors are strained. Still, I'm not a detractor -- he was good, and significant.