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Hell of a ride

August 3, 2008 | 12:52 pm

Jcpenny0802

Jacket Copy's ongoing conversation about Denis Johnson's noir serial "Nobody Move" continues....

I think what Carolyn says about implausibility is absolutely right, and the point she makes about Chandler and noir working with those kinds of ellipses in fact or logic is true.  Last summer I reread a lot of Ross MacDonald, and this summer I'm reading my fifth Raymond Chandler, so I've been thinking about why those noir novels did such a great job of keeping the reader intensely interested, so much so that who cared about minor details?

I believe what a lot of literary novelists lose sight of, with their love of language, is plot, and this excerpt, as David says, is loaded with plot -- it's the classic noir road trip.  (I did think exactly the same thing about the duffel bag, though.)  Once these characters are on the road, everything sings.  The descriptions of the landscape are great, again. I love the way Anita gets mad about buying JC Penney clothes.   

But what about the dialogue? It's after the jump.

And the blunt voices and ever-present violence in the sections with "the vet" and Gambol are good counterpoint.  Jimmy and Anita, cruising along on their road trip, offer perfect dialogue -- but consequences await, as they always do in noir.

I'm also reading two first novels in the mystery genre that are totally different -- Zoë Ferraris' "Finding Nouf," set in the desert and cities of Saudi Arabia, and Tana French's "In the Woods," set in a small town in Ireland.  Reading these four types (including the Chandler) is fascinating because of the major differences in narrative style.  Bedouin guide and amateur sleuth, detective and partner, Marlowe, and then Johnson's Jimmy Luntz -- the agent of chaos himself, with no control or insight much of the time.  Just a hell of a ride.

Susan Straight

photo by Vox Efx via Flickr

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