A while ago I read The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler, and also Dark Tort, by Dianne Mott Davidson.
I had sworn not to read any more of Davidson’s books, but, like Marlowe, boredom and angst got the better of me. It was just sitting there, on Elyn’s side of the bed, promising relief. “Look at me”, said the cover. “I am not the terrible books you have already read. I am different.”
Naturally it lied.
I tried to picture Marlowe living in Aspen Meadows, working for a caterer. Anything to make it through the book, the reading of which, for some reason, had become like a duel. I could best Davidson: her bad writing, her undistinguished observations of Colorado life.
She tried to wear me down. First she had all the characters phrase statements as questions? Over and over? As if she had learned a new writing trick? I perservered.
Next she enumerated the many ultimate comfort foods — a specialized torture which had successfully broken George Will. I was stronger than that, more flexible. I can accept that Apple Betty is the ultimate one day, but Mac and Cheese the next. I have three ultimate comfort foods before breakfast.
Wily, evil Davidson tried repetition as well. Perhaps she could lull me into complacency with warm, fresh bread. Never just bread, only warm, fresh bread, a mantra to destroy my reading skills.
But what drove me to picturing Marlowe was a vignette picturing Boulderites. It’s as if she were writing for me, trying to probe my pet peeves. We Bouldarians are flighty. We’re paranoid. We think that garbage trucks are evil. We’re little old ladies. Sure, Boulder has its whatevers and et ceteras; but wasn’t Traven rumored to live on Spruce Street? That should be dark enough for anybody.
Someday, I hope, Davidson will lose it a little and write her own anti-novel, something that will annihilate her previous work. We’ll see Aspen Grove as it truly is; perhaps a corrupt small town with a machiavellian caterer pulling the strings. Marlowe will move there from Los Angeles to cure his vapors, and proceed to confront the yokel sociopaths and fight and shoot his way through the cafes and dog-washing businesses. Someday.