Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Another colorful excerpt

This is from Bad Boy Brawly Brown by Walter Mosley.
Pfennig's copper-colored hair came out of a wash basin and she probably had been ugly even when she was a child, which was more than forty years earlier. Her long nose had gone awry, like a sapling grown under heavy shade, wavering this way and that in search for the light. Her eyes were a translucent gray. Her skin was gray also, but lusterless and drab.
I love the whole paragraph, but the description of poor Ms Pfeninig's nose is priceless. I have never before thought of someone's nose as "going awry," but now that I have been handed that image, I can think of a few people to whom I might apply it.

I stumbled upon this book in a reduced cart in the aisle of the local grocery store. I noticed it was a detective fiction, which I like; and that it was cheap, which I also like. After getting it home I realized it was by an author I had recently read in an anthology of crime short stories.

Mosley's style kind of reminds me of William Faulkner. Now I chuckle as I say this, because it has been years since I read any Faulkner. And in fact, although I remember enjoying the book we were assigned in my freshman lit class in college, my attempts to read him since have been unfruitful. So I in no way consider myself a Faulkner scholar.

But there is something about the terse and somewhat fragmented style Mosley uses; combined with lots of dialog and a feeling that I better stay alert as a reader or I might find myself in a different place or time from paragraph to paragraph. Somehow this all reminds me of Faulkner. But I don't have to struggle to figure Mosley's writing out. Just stay on my toes a bit.

This book is interesting to me because it is set in the Watts neighborhood of LA in the early 60s, in the flux of the the civil rights era. It paints a picture of what life might have been like for urban African American during this time. I like to read books that can help me understand the experiences of different peoples and this book successfully depicts a culture with which I have very little knowledge.

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