Sunday, May 03, 2009

John D. MacDonald

While I was trawling for something else entirely, I came across this excellent Jonathan Yardley piece about JDM from the Washington Post 2003.

Here's an excerpt:

"MacDonald himself turned out, when I interviewed him in his comfortable, unpretentious house, to be a large, calm, genial, quiet yet talkative man: a gentleman. By then he had established himself, as I wrote in a profile of him for the Herald's Sunday magazine, as "the pre-eminent 'Florida novelist,' " a distinction earned by remarkably close observation of the state: its grifters and operators and big-bucks crooks, its decent ordinary people, its overdeveloped land and polluted water. He had harsh things to say about Florida in "Condominium" and many of his other books. When I asked him about this he said: "I've always recognized that Florida is a slightly tacky state," and added, "You love it in spite of itself."

Close questioning revealed not merely that he had a complex love-hate relationship with his adopted state (he was born, in 1916, in Pennsylvania) but that he was a constant reader with high standards. He thought some genre novelists were taken too seriously, just as Thomas Pynchon was ("One is overvalued because the critic finds some elements of literacy in it, the other because he can't understand it"), and he was a tough critic who expected others' prose to have "felicity, an element of aptness." One passage from my tapes deserves full quotation:

"I just cannot read people like Leon Uris and James Michener. When you've covered one line, you can guess the next one. I like people who know the nuances of words, who know how to stick the right one in the right place. Sometimes you can laugh out loud at an exceptionally good phrase. I find it harder and harder to find fiction to read, because I either read it with dismay at how good it is or disgust at how bad it is. I do like the guys like John Cheever that have a sense of story, because, goddammit, you want to know what happens to somebody. You don't want a lot of self-conscious little logjams thrown in your way."

for the rest go here:

Ed here: That's the unmistakable voice of JDM.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is superb. Jonathan Yardley is the finest critic writing today.
His occasional examinations of treasured, half-forgotten books are delightful. This is a beautiful study of John MacDonald.

Richard Wheeler