Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Barry Malzberg comments on Gil Brewer & The Red Scarf

Comment to Bill Pronzini right after completing my second reading, 35 years after the first.  You're welcome to post.

From: Conmoto2@aol.com
To: pronhack@comcast.net
Sent: 12/11/2015 8:05:22 P.M. Eastern Standard Time
Subj: The Red Scarf

Finished this just minutes ago.

It occurred to me - an odd, paradoxical thought - that if this novel had been any better it would not have been as good.  With deeper characterization, more careful pacing, a more complex rendering of and explanation for the protagonist's mad self-destructiveness the novel would have lost the spare, ungiving propulsion which not only centers but justifies.  There are many such paradoxes in the so-called arts...if Liberace (who began as a fourteen year old prodigy soloing one of the Chopin concertos with the Chicago Symphony) had been a better pianist he would not have made a fiftieth of the money or had a hundredth of the celebrity.  Leroy Anderson at Harvard in the 30's wanted to be a symphonic composer like Copland but Harvard did not want to admit him to the graduate program and Koussevitzky later did not want him hanging around the Boston Symphony.  So he wrote novelty pieces like SLEIGH RIDE and BLUE TANGO for the Boston Pops and late in life one extended work (20 minutes), a piano concerto which he withdrew after its premiere.    If Bradbury, a Kuttner and Lovecraft imitator, had been good enough to have had the career as a leading ASTOUNDING writer to which he aspired, he would have been as exhausted in 1953 and forgotten today as Kuttner.  Brewer was destroyed by a multiplicity of problems but his pathetic attempts in the 1960's to become an important literary writer like his idol Hemingway were perhaps the most salient factor.

1 comment:

Ron Clinton said...

R.e. "... Bradbury, a . . . Lovecraft imitator" and ". . . [Brewer's] pathetic attempts in the 1960s to become an important literary writer like his idol Hemingway" -- I respect Malzberg's knowledge of the industry and its players, but based on my rather generous familiarity with both authors and their bodies of work, I don't have a clue what he is referring to in either case.