The first year of my thesis could be a sitcom. I lived near the top of a down in a rather shambolic house I’d found on Gumtree. The house was rented by a company that employed the two most incompetent people i’ve met in my life. One was a burn out who just wanted to talk to me about Hendrix. The other would invite himself in and waffle on and on about how his marriage was falling apart, then propose some improvements to the house, and never follow up on them.(probably much like his marriage) I lived with an assorted number of heinous and non-heinous housemates. The non-heinous were a Scotsman, who seemed impervious to the cold, and a Trot who was quick to move out. The heinous were two teenagers sent to learn English who soon revealed that they were clueless about living on their own. Amazingly, they paled in comparison to a man a few years their senior: who never did one single dish, got in days long screaming arguments with his girlfriend, and had make up sex to terrible trance music at a volume low enough that the sex noises mixed with the terrible trance music.
While I lived in this house I got in the habit of reading fiction every Sunday. I found it was a good way to clear my head. Over the course of the year I made my way through many George Pelecanos books and a few books published by New Review Books.
This all changed when I found out about The Wire. From then on, despite the fact that subsequent TV shows were never as good as The Wire, my Sunday habit incrementally moved from clearing by head by reading fiction to binging on TV.
Today I managed to return to reading fiction. I picked up my half read copy of Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling and I finished it. There’s a scene in Billy Wilder’s Ace In The Hole when the female lead has the following to say about the male lead: ‘I’ve met some hard boiled eggs in my day, but you, your’re twenty minutes.’ Hard Rain Falling is the equivalent of that in relation to other hard boiled fiction. An unrelentingly bleak story of man from his conception, to his escape from an orphanage through petty and gritty crime, prison sentences and failed marriages. The prose is taught and compelling. The tone–as reliant upon the story and not some abstract notions about being thrown into absurd existence– is what might be called a socially embedded existential alienation. Man, is it good.