Tuesday, August 28, 2012

James Ellroy, #1: "I am going to tell you everything."

Clay lies still, but blood's a rover:
breath's a ware that will not keep.
Up, lad: when the journey's over,
there'll be time enough to sleep.

-A.E. Housman, "A Shropshire Lad: IV, Reveille"

I came to faith through violence.

My favorite stories were always the ones of discord and dismemberment. The Bible brought me tales of genocide and slaughter that I was too young to contextualize. The reading material hadn't been available, and it wouldn't be for years. But these tales of good vs. evil, so easily quantified by holy writ, gave me notions of those same moral divisions that hold to this day, although the sides have switched, and everything is up in the air, ready to be snatched from the sky like snowflakes on your tongue.

I first saw L.A Confidential—an edited copy, thanks to CleanFlix!—in 2003, the night before I left town for college. I didn't really know what was going on BECAUSE IT'S A COMPLICATED PLOT OK, but after about four viewings or so, I think I pieced it together. It doesn't matter: it still held my attention in a vise glove-tight, every frame squeezing and flexing around my throat until a final—sort of—release.

Memory fades when I wonder about what brought me back around to Ellroy. I know there was an incredible Paris Review interview that I had read during a Utah Jazz game a few days after Christmas 2009. On the heels of a broken engagement, a new, subsequent relationship began a fitful, indecisive blossom, turning from sunflower to weed to poison ivy and back again, sometimes in the space of hours, and I grew increasingly frustrated with the waffling back-and-forth of someone holding me like a rosary every night and throwing me away like an apple core every morning. So it came like a hard right hook to read someone just come out and say:

"If you’re confused about something in one of my books, you’ve just got to realize, Ellroy’s a master, and if I’m not following it, it’s my problem. You just have to submit to me."

I read and re-read the interview five times, back to back to back to back to back, hovering over it like a Rubik's cube, deciphering its hints and learning its language so I could dismantle and reconstruct it in my mind. I came home that night and wrote something hypothetical that solidified the stakes inside my mind, tying them to the emotional wounds still waiting to scab over and become something useful, something I could weaponize and use to destroy the years that preceded it.

Four months isn't long, and all of it was still fresh enough to be raw and make me wince at the slightest stimulation; people kept telling me about "closure," that peace would come with forgiveness. But the one instinct I remember holding onto was something that I soon learned Ellroy had put better than I ever could:

"Closure is bullshit, and I would love to find the man who invented closure and shove a giant closure plaque up his ass."

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More to come.

1 comment:

Meg said...

Yes and yes. And more yes.