Wednesday, November 11, 2009

How Christopher G.Moore crosses borders

Christopher G. Moore calls his P.I. protagonist, Vincent Calvino, "a cultural detective. He sifts through the evidence in a way that makes sense of the location and people living in Southeast Asia."

Moore lived, worked or studied in Canada, England, the United States and Japan before winding up in Bangkok. He writes of seeing Thailand come out its isolation, of people everywhere "inching closer to a common center."

Calvino is a former lawyer who similarly wound up in Bangkok. I'm not sure he has arrived at that center yet, but it's fun to watch his trip. Here's a bit from the opening chapter of the tenth Calvino novel, Paying Back Jack:
"They'd suggested that he try looking at things as if they were fresh, new, and of another time and place.

I've just arrived, and this is the first street in Asia I've ever seen. A smile crossed Calvino's face as he moved down the soi. Each step was a foot deeper into the freak show, starting with the huge banyan tree. Its large, twisted trunk wrapped with dozens of thin, colored nylon scarves, the tree had long, stringy veins that hung like gnarled tentacles over the soi. A dwarf stood on the broken sidewalk in front of a bar, dressed in a vest, a white shirt, and a bow tie. Holding up a sign for happy hour beer, he tagged along after each passing tourist for a few steps. Then, exhausted, he'd stop and retrace his steps to the bar and wait to strike again. `Come inside!' he shouted. `Many pretty girls!' The dwarf was right."
There are no twisted banyan trees in Philadelphia, and if the city has dwarf touts, I've missed them as well. But I'd call Calvino's approach a nice way of opening one's eyes and ears to the sights and sounds of a new place -- or to an old one whose initial excitement has begun to pall.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger Simona said...

Since I have been looking at inspiration regarding name of a protagonist (Montalbano in my case), I am wondering whether there is a connection with Italo Calvino here.

November 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I could have asked Christopher G. Moore at Bouchercon in Indianapolis. I suppose he's on his way back to Thailand now.

I haven't read enough of Paying Back Jack to be able to guess at the inspiration for Calvino. As yet, I detect no sign of the Italian Folk Tales Calvino or of the magical surrealism of such books as T Con Zero of Le Cosmicomiche. I do know that Calvino is half-Italian, helf-Jewish and, I think, American and that Moore is none of the three.

November 12, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Simona, Christopher Moore now tells me that his protagonist's name was indeed inspired by Italo Calvino. Paying Back Jack, the eleventh book in the Calvino series, contains several references to many Bangkoks within Bangkok, and the like. Perhaps Moore especially liked Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.

November 15, 2009  

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