I like to read. I don’t get much time to read as much as I like, but I do like to read. My wife on the other loves to read and she consumes books like a marijuana’d elephant with the munchies. That is probably the only way she is like an elephant.
It was a week after New Year’s Day. Like all the other saps in the world I made some resolutions. But I’m 40 and I don’t make fucking resolutions – except I do and I pretend like I don’t.
One of my rare resolutions was to read more. Precisely 12 more. How easy is that – to read 12 books in 12 months? I don’t mean big chunky books, I mean the lightweight – entertain you briefly, possibly educate you a little – kind.
In 2015, what could I read? There are a stack of business books I could waste my time on – each telling me how fucked up the world of work is and selling their own trademarked snake oil to deaden the pain. Or I could read something entirely made up – that created alternative universes with their own rules and rituals – purporting to be unique but simply offering glimpse of humanity that we all knew – ‘A’ for invention, ‘F’ for originality.
Instead I picked James Ellroy. You know, James Ellroy who wrote LA Confidential and the Black Dahlia. Yeah, that James Ellroy. The foul mouthed , angry at the world crime writer. And boy what a choice.
My chosen goblet of tasty shit was American Tabloid – a seemingly innocuous 590 pages. This would be easy.I would read 30 pages a night, a few more when I’m on the road. When I was done I would toss it on the pile of mildly interesting shit I had done.
Now, I generally don’t hero worship – so don’t start getting any ideas. But respect is due to James Ellroy. He doesn’t mince words. He grabs you by the balls and invites a fucking menagerie of America’s biggest names to tug along.
American Tabloid is on par with the Lord of the Rings with its ability to totally suck you in and alter your perception of reality. Except Ellroy does it by bending popular history in ways that would curl your toes. He lulls you in with an illusion of familiarity. So, many people know of Jimmy Hoffa – dodgy teamsters union leader and Mafia tangoist. But did you know Jimmy Hoffa the dog fucker? Or the inspirational John F Kennedy who – according to Ellroy – was also a rampant fuck-any-creature-in-a-skirt spoilt , clueless joyrider.
In American Tabloid, every major political and newsworthy figure of the 1950-1970s was part of the story – each playing their part in my mental ball tugging. From Monroe to Sinatra, from Eisenhower to Castro. The White House, The Mafia, the CIA, the FBI – including J Edgar Hoover the Voyeur!
I won’t tell you the premise of this caper. This caper of capers where the capers are shit scared of all the other capers. Needless to say I won’t read modern American political history the same again. For a long time to come, the spectre of James Ellroy will sit on my shoulder, commenting in his famed staccato style the relevant details of the moment. The shit no one else dare say.
So, in the best possible taste – Fuck You James Ellroy for writing books that rewired minds, showed the scabs of humanity without saying a word more than was necessary.