The Beauty in Damnation


Today, I had a wonderful conversation with my mother about the beauty found within F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s prose.  We passionately conversed about various Fitzgerald stories, whilst discussing his effective structure and brilliant insight into the mundane.  It’s as if he found beauty in the most average of things, but his professional perception of the world far exceeded his knowledge of it; he somehow managed to harness it, and translate the beauty he saw into terms that even the damned would find fascinatingly gorgeous.

Many writers, especially of Fitzgerald’s era..actually…of any era, seem tormented by their senses.  Alcoholism, sickness, an insatiable sexual appetite, a willingness to forget, and (unfortunately) a morbid curiosity of death ran amok and many literary geniuses were squelched before they ever truly blossomed.  Fitzgerald’s suffered from severe alcoholism, and can’t even be removed from greats that passed before their time; however, when his pen found the paper he elated the simple and noticed the obscure.  And, for that gift I uphold his esteem slightly higher than others.

Fitzgerald seemed to compartmentalize the overwhelming and focus on components of it as a whole.  This allowed him to find the beauty between negative spaces and chronicle the mundane as extraordinary.  Once compounded and taken as a whole the exquisiteness still remained and, once assembled, was incredibly applicable to larger issues.

Instead of describing the sadness found with life Fitzgerald discussed the would-be sadness of life in such a manner that it’s true splendor was revealed and then the over arching and truly saddening issues could be brought to the limelight and discussed over the pretenses of realism.

Fitzgerald wields a certain spell over my literary sensibilities and once boiled down my mother and I were essentially trading impressions and admiration over the legendary author.  It was a great conversation, and it definitely spurs me to blow the dust of some old novels so that I can be transported back to the first time I first encountered Fitzgerald’s particular brand of genius.

Like a cliché motivational poster found upon the library of Jim Trelease:  “A Book is a Time Machine.”

Film Noir, and Detective Fiction


All my life I’ve been fascinated with detective fiction.  It seems almost human nature to adhere to the unlawful.  I think that most individuals are spellbound by misdeeds and the felonious.  It intrigues us.  Simplistically put: crime is bad and, if indulged, there are consequences (some more grave then others).  We have the tendency to watch and absorb novels and films that depict crime; it’s an interactive gateway drug that allows people to nearly experience the inexperienceable.

Recently I discovered HBO’sBored to Death.”  What makes the show very appealing, besides the idiosyncratic wit, is the fact that the entire show is founded in classic literature and detective fiction.  Frequent references to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and countless other authors dot each episode creating a writer’s haven of inside jokes.  Along with the references and humor, resides a wonderful plot, surrounding the inane exploits of an unlicensed, Craigslist detective.  This aspect of the show is just as equally founded in classicism as the literary references; “Bored to Death” continually dives into the deep well of the private eye genre.  From the ‘whodunit’ to the ‘inverted detective story’ tried and true methods of detective writing are revealed and then accented with atypical characters and circumstances.  These elements are then interwoven with the literary, and then once again recombined with a myriad of cliché film noir archetypes that creates a truly enthralling half-hour’s worth of television.

Other programs such as “Bones,” “CSI,” and “Psych” all tweak the police procedural to form a distinctively absorbing television show; however, all of which, are founded within the same genre.  Myself included, humans are rebellious by nature and this is but a small extension of that rebellion.

I started working on my own detective novella several months ago and have yet to make any real progress.  I have a couple of okay ideas, and the framework complete, in a purely outlined form, yet I’ve hit the proverbial stonewall.  I know what I want my characters to do next and I even know what to do with them afterwards, yet I’m unsure how to execute the process.  Even though my writing as well as “Bored to Death” and most Raymond Chandler novels are based in detective fiction, how do I tweak it to make it my own?  How do I take the inherent rebellion expressed through watching crime unfold and then to be solved, and fashion it into something unique?  I believe that some clichés are needed in order to redirect the piece back to its foundation; however, some aspects could easily brush by the ‘paying homage’ intention and graze upon plagiarism.  It is a fine line to straddle, but I think if done correctly I could, just as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett did all those years ago, write a unique piece of private eye fiction.

There are some truly great films out there that highlight the private eye, but I would like to see a second coming of detective fiction.  I’ve read some contemporary novels that are spot on, but the nostalgia created from picking up a worn pocket-sized paperback and curling up with a great read, a warm cup of coffee, and a fire a blazing is priceless, and unfortunately lost in modern times.

Why can’t we renew this concept, and curl up with a piece of detective fiction digitized for the Kindle or Nook, a warm latte, and an electric fire set aglow?  This is the question that I ask you.