Monday, October 31, 2011

Rilke on Black (Ken Bruen on humor)

Ken Bruen's early novel Rilke on Black is funny and dark (though not as dark as it might have seemed a few weeks ago, before I read Derek Raymond.)  Still, it's full of quotable laugh lines and, perhaps more impressive, trenchant pop-music references. A few samples:

I didn’t wish him luck. As it wasn’t that kind of business. Plus, I didn’t want to. I watched him join the crowds. Thing was, he did look like Mickey Rourke. But late-night Brixton, most do, even the women.
***
A cheap walkman as music would pass the time for him. Then a new dilemma.


What tapes would he like? From the sublime to the ridiculous. I got Aretha and Whitney Houston. I drew the line at Stevie Wonder. Not even a hostage would endure that torture.
***
She’d a lush body that summoned up jail sentences.
***
Remember it, one of those songs you heard all the time, you’d no idea what it meant. In fact, if pressed, you couldn’t even say if you liked it. But you knew it and, worse, it clung. One of those songs that hung out with, “me and you/and a dog named boo”.
***
I walked towards the Oval. Just pick any pub. I did, on the Stockwell side. This is where they mug Rottweilers.
***
I met her in the Rose and Crown on Clapham Common. A pub that still merits the name. The requirement was only to be a drinker.


You didn’t have to play pool.


Munch Hawaiian crisps.


Play lotteries.


Be yuppified.


Flaunt on sexual prowess.


A pub.
===========
And, because I just found this clip of a song I've long liked, here, for reasons that have nothing to do with this post, is Maria Bethania.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

Labels: ,

20 Comments:

Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Love the Stockwell line. Spot on. Didn't realise you'd read Derek Raymond. Kept that quiet.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Alan Griffiths said...

I’m really enjoying your posts, Peter and thanks for them.

I share your admiration for KB. I’ve read pretty much all his stuff, including the early stuff like Rilke. Genius stuff, I’ll have to re-visit soon. Have you read the White Arrest series? Delicious black humour.

Best, Alan

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Lou Boxer said...

Bruen's work remains ageless. Thanks Peter for revisiting this great work of Bruen!

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Dana King said...

I'm sometimes not sure how I feel about Bruen's stories, but his writing is unsurpassed. Thanks for the reminders.

October 31, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I loved those lines. Truth is, there's much to love about Bruen's writing. Still, the non-Jack-Taylor novels frustrate me sooner or later.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Great lines, you listed there.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, I don't know Stockwell, or at least I didn't know Stockwell before I read that line. And sure, I read I Was Dora Suarez and The Devil's Home on Leave a couple of weeks ago. I'm damned proud to have done so, too.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Alan. The White Arrest (or Brant or Brant and Roberts) books were the first Bruen I read, and I still like them best.

I've written about most if not all of them on this site, if you'd care to search some old posts.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome, Lou, but in this case the credit goes to Otto Penzler. I read Rilke on Black in the new Mysterious Press e-book edition. He's putting some good books back into circulation.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I feel the same way about some of Bruen's writing. The books are sometimes one long, agonized, funny rant. It's no surprise Bruen is drawn to poetry -- probably not narrative poetry, either.

I've always enjoyed his humor, and I don't think he's ever concentrated so many laugh lines in one book as he did here.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J., I'd guess that the non-Jack Taylor novels frustrate you for the same reason Dana is occasionally dubious about Bruen's stories: plenty of mood and rant and rough humor, but not enough storytelling for some tastes.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Sean, I trimmed some lines from the list I was going to include in this post. If you've read Bruen, you know sly humor at unexpected moments is one of his hallmarks. He has more of it here than in any other book of his I've read.

You're a music guy, so you may appreciate, as I did, the way some of these lines capture the experience of being around pop music. He's funny not just about songs, but about the way they work their way into our lives whether we want them to or not.

October 31, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Yes, I think you're right. Plus, I think sometimes he rushes. With the Taylor novels, I get the feeling he really worked at getting it right. He gets into the character and stays there.

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Priest was certainly no rush job.

His novels tend to have more than their share of spelling and other small errors. In Rilke on Black, for instance, the character Bonny is referred to on one page as Sonny and then as Benny. It would not detract from Bruen's appeal to subject the books to the sort of editing that would correct such errors.

October 31, 2011  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I think I've read all of Ken Bruen's novels. Definitely liked some of them, particularly the early ones (with or without Jack Taylor). But he's become too self-referential and repetitive for me to be looking forward to his next novel. For example, if I have to read one more time: "Did I blah blah blah? Like fuck I did" I think I'll wind up putting Bruen down for good. And if not a "rush job" The Priest was definitely one of Bruen's weaker Jack Taylor entries. Crikey! All that fantasy fire and brimstone is-he-really-the-devil? Bah!

October 31, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

See, now I very much liked The Priest for such touches as the pathetic nun who had worked alongside the villanous priest. I also liked The Magdalen Martyrs, but some of the others less so.

October 31, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I'm reading Adrian McKinty at the moment. His protagonist reminds me of Jack Taylor. This is the sort of character I really like and admire and it's not always easy to pull that off. It's also very rare to find such complex protagonists in crime fiction.

November 01, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He has created a number of good protagonists, and he has a new book on the way, about which good things are being said.

I may talk disproportionately about funny lines, but I like a protagonist who does more than make rueful wisecracks, too.

November 01, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Thanks for the music link. I had never heard this song nor Maria Bethania. Enjoyed both and the video, and went on to read about the singer. Interesting.

November 04, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're welcome. You'll have read about the Tropicalia movement, that at least one of its members went into exile Brazil's military government.

November 04, 2011  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home