Friday Roundup: August sucks, Chandler versus Parker, and Rob Sheffield on Duran Duran
The photo, taken by my sister Ingrid during our recent Seattle-Tacoma-Portland expedition, is of Dan Corson’s “Sonic Bloom” sculpture at the
Center in Seattle. It’s huge—the flowers stand thirty-three
feet tall, apparently—and impressive. The flowers absorb solar energy during
the day, which allows them to glow with light at night.
Also, they hum. Kind of cool. I like Seattle's laid-back artsy vibe. Big solar-powered flowers that glow and hum at you. Good stuff.
This is the first roundup of August. Ah, August. How I despise you, August. Let’s revisit David Plotz’s 2001 Slate column, which Slate republishes annually, about why August is the worst month of the year. Hard to argue with Plotz’s reasoning. August stinks. It’s hands down my least-favorite month. You know the best thing about August? It’s followed by September, which is a month I generally enjoy.
As I mentioned in my vacation travelogue, I’ve been reading some vintage hardboiled detective fiction lately, most recently Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1929) and Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1939). Of the two authors,
is more my speed, mostly because his Philip Marlowe is less—how shall I phrase
this?—off-puttingly assholish than Hammett’s Sam Spade. (The vicious homophobia
in both books, by the way, comes as an unpleasant shock from the vantage point
of 2015.) Back in 1988, at the request of Chandler’s
estate, detective novelist Robert B. Parker, author of the very entertaining
Spenser series, completed and published Chandler’s
unfinished novel Poodle Springs. This
makes complete sense, because as I was reading The Big Sleep, I kept thinking how Chandler’s prose—clean, sharp,
snarky—is a pitch-perfect match for Parker’s style.
Quick comparison: Here’s the opening paragraph of The Big Sleep:
It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark blue clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything a well dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.
And here’s the opening paragraph, condensed for length, of Parker’s The Judas Goat (1978):
Hugh Dixon’s home sat on a hill in Weston and looked out over the low
Massachusettshills as if asphalt had not been invented yet. […] The bell made the standard high-tone chime sound in the house when I pushed the button, and while I was waiting for a servant to let me in I checked my appearance reflected in the full-length windows on each side of the door. There was no way to tell, looking at me, that I only had $387 in the bank. Three-piece white linen suit, blue striped shirt, white silk tie and mahogany loafers that Gucci would’ve sold his soul for. Maybe Dixoncould hire me to stand around and dress up the place. As long as I kept my coat buttoned you couldn’t see the gun.
Eerie, isn’t it?
Hey, Rob Sheffield interviewed Duran Duran for Rolling Stone! Outstanding. Sheffield is one of my favorite music journalists—his observations on VH1’s I Love the 80s series were always keen and funny, and his memoirs Love is a Mix Tape and (obviously) Talking to Girls About Duran Duran are both worth a read. You know how I’m endlessly entertained by the search terms people use to find this website? Maybe my all-time favorite keyword phrase, which someone out there entered into Google to lead them here, was this: morgan richter is rob sheffield. No. No, I am not Rob Sheffield, but thank you for the thought. He and I both just say a lot of affectionately snarky things about Duran Duran, that’s all.
No Glitter Princes this week—I brought my sketchbook and pencils on vacation, hoping to sketch my way across the
Northwest, but they rarely left my suitcase. Next week, maybe.
Here’s Killing Joke’s 1984 video for their single “Eighties”, which, Wikipedia informs me, was used as the theme song for That ‘80s Show during its mercifully brief run on Fox. Nirvana would later use a near-identical version of the opening riff of “Eighties” on “Come as You Are.” Damn good songs, both of them.
Stay cool and dry, everyone. See you next week.