Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Catching Up #19: Die A Little by Megan Abbott

It is alarming what Megan Abbott can do with the noir genre. And I’m not saying alarming like “oh bother that dislodged my monocle” alarming but like “let’s head to the fucking shelter” alarming. James Ellroy should thank his fucking lucky stars that he is supposedly no longer a writing crime after the last Underworld U.S.A. novel because Abbott’s ‘50’s L.A. gives his a goddamn sprint for its fucking money.

Now I know you’ve figured this shit out dear reader. You’re thinking, Okay Nerd, you’ve made your shocking statement, now explain the plot and then try and back up your boldness.

Well, ridiculously-perceptive-clearly-autistic reader…I guess I’ll go ahead and do just that. Here I fucking go. You happy now, smart-ass? No wonder the other kids think you’re weird.

So Die A Little is about a woman named Alice Steele whose sister-in-law Lora King is a nosy little bitch in 1950’s Pasadena. Well, actually Lora is right to be suspicious. Alice Steele is a lady with a past so seedy it could never stay hidden forever. She isn’t good enough for her straight-arrow husband Bill, an investigator with the D.A.’s office and his sister (who is yeah, a little too close to her brother…) is willing to dig through the muck, even if it costs her her life….or maybe even her soul (man, The Nerd really sucks at taglines).

Like any good story, what makes this one stick out particularly is the little details. There is tons of attention to appliances bought and usd by the newlweds and what everybody is wearing and the food they prepare for parties and all kinds of shit that normally bogs down a lesser novel. In Die A Little it serves as a hilarious contrast. These people all live buttoned-down boring-ass consumerist 1950's lives, no wonder it comes as such a shock - and thrill - to Lora that there is this whole other world outside of her own normalcy, that Alice comes from such ill fame. It's only natural she'd be up for hanging out there...just a little couldn't hurt, right?

As with my previous Abbott experience, Queenpin, the book goes all the way, gives the reader the most satisfyingly dark resolution they could ask for. Also, aside from a couple well-timed uses of the word "fuck," this one feels like it was actually written in the fifties while somehow not feeling neutered by the style choice either. It's a feat that never ceases to make my nerd-boner rage.

If you haven't checked out Abbott yet...jesus, I don't know what the fuck to tell you. I mean, do you have something better to do? It's a fucking blizzard out there - unless you're living in L.A. And even if you're living in L.A., why wouldn't you want to visit the town back when it had some class, when the secrets seemed dirtier, the movie business seemed exotic instead of something obsessed over on DVD extras. That is where Abbott takes you in Die A Little. I'd like to go back to that world real soon.

That's why I ordered The Song Is You.

1 comment:

jedidiah ayres said...

Supposedly there was interest in Hollywood for Die a Little as a Jessica Biel vehicle, (and updating to present day). Dunno what's up with that now, but her stuff works so well in it's time/place, it seems a shame to change it.