Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Very First Roman Durs.

c. David Grim (taken 11/27/10)

Over the past few years I have been increasingly attracted to crime novels. James Ellroy, George Pelecanos, and Richard Price are among the authors I have picked up and returned to recently. Together these living masters document the factors and environments that lead men and women to engage in unsavory practices that often bring themselves (and others) to ruin. Often the details can be heavy and depressing, but these examinations of humans at their worst have me turning the pages with anticipation. My feelings for the characters can be almost maudlin at times, but my reading experiences seem justified by the suggestion of their antecedents in reality.

Perhaps it's just easier for me to feel the sadness of our society when the accounts I expose myself to are fictionalized. Maybe I need that distance to allow myself to feel for them. The harsh eventualities that befall my contemporaries are often too bleak to consider when watching the news, or reading about them in the paper. I seem to require their transformation into art for purposes of emotional digestion. Otherwise I shove them aside or puke them up as soon as I take them in.

I've finally gotten around to reading Georges Simenon. This mid-20th Century French author wrote approximately one hundred roman durs (hard novels) in which the ordinary flaws of the principal characters inevitably lead to moral collapse and harsh misfortune. Yet the author presents the events in the lives of his subjects in a matter-of-fact matter that almost trivializes their internal psychologies. There are no heroes in Simenon's works, just as there are no villains that we could relate to. That fact makes these books seem like the equivalent of unwitting manifestos of modern realism.

After a rather desultory reading of "The Engagement", I can appreciate Simenon's approach. It is particuliarly concerned with the largely mundane decisions of the main character, who is only remarkable as a rather unpleasant presence amidst his urban neighbors. I felt very little for the man, nor was I moved by his developing troubles. But at the same time I value Simenon's insistence that matters of life and death are often the result of the accumulation of seemingly inconsequential details. While the book is decidedly not "sexy", it rings true as a representation of the ennui and grayness of the vice inherent in modern city life.

1 comment:

  1. not sure I'd read the book, but i like the pic. MP