Saturday, February 05, 2011

The Trap of Solid Gold

I never miss the great blog The Trap of Solid Gold. Steve Scott does a great job charting the life and work of John D. MacDonald. This week he ran a particularly interesting series of quotes from JDM about other writers.

for the rest go here:



JDM on Other Writers
"[Dashiell Hammett's] strengths, and they were so considerable as to elevate his work from hack to art, were in persuasive characterizations, deft, understated, graceful transitions, remarkable dialogue and such little touches of reality in description that he could bring a walk-on completely alive in about two sentences."

-- JDM's 1981 review of Shadow Man by Richard Layman, in the Washington Star

"Some of the people I like to read nowadays are Thomas Williams -- some of his titles are Town Burning, The Night of Trees and The Hair of Harold Roux. I like Charles Williams -- Charley's good, particularly his books Scorpion Reef and Aground. And Nabokov -- splendid, except when he gets too fanciful; when he gets too far away from his story line into erudition, he begins to intrude, he begins to spoil his own narrative effect, almost mischievously. I like John Cheever, very much, and Peter DeVries. Let me see now... that fellow who wrote The Spy Who Came in From the Cold -- John LeCarré. And Eric Ambler I like, and John Updike. And James Jones -- he was a plodder, and was predictable, but he has such a vivid and marvelous control of his own ability. He could create a scene that becomes as unforgettable as if you'd seen it yourself.

"[Norman] Mailer is one of my literary heroes not only because of the restless flood of his talent -- at times he has reminded me of a one-man band, snare drum, bass drum, banjo and a harmonica around his neck on a wire brace -- but also because, along with Saul Bellow and John Updike, he keeps on charging ahead just as if the novel were at the center of the contemporary cultural experience instead of that weeny little thing out there at the far edge of literacy."

-- JDM's USA Today review of Mailer's 1983 novel Tough Guys Don't Dance


Brendan DuBois said...

Holy smokes, Ed... what a posting... not only because JDM is one of my favorite authors, but to hear him praise the works of Thomas Williams damn near made my heart stop... because Williams taught fiction writing at UNH in Durham, NH, and I was *quite* fortunate to take some writing classes and an independent fiction writing study under him... wow, what a world...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Ed. I've always wondered where the JDM quote lauding Charles Williams was, and there he talks about it.

Ed Lynskey

Matt Paust said...

Grateful for this, Ed. Fascinating to see JDM's take on other novelists. The only other such survey I can remember is the one Norman Mailer did in Esquire in the '60s using a boxing ring analogy that fit his persona perfectly. JDM's critiques may not be as entertaining, but are more valuable to writers. Also appreciate the link to Steve Scott's blog.

Oh, Gooo, Packers!

Ed Gorman said...

I believe it was in the late Fifties where Mailer considered the other writers in the room. Or maybe this is the same one you're talking about, Matt. The one I refer to ended up in Advertisements for Myself.

Matt Paust said...

You're right, Ed. That was the title of the piece, too, The Other Writers in the Room, all battling for a wink from "The Bitch." Pretty sure I still have that Esquire somewhere. Bought it on a newsstand, and I do believe it changed my life - or at least gave me some direction. Shortly thereafter I flunked out of U. of Wis. for the third time and joined the Army - September 1963 - and in those four years read everything I could get my hands on by every one of the writers Mailer "fought."