Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lawrence Block's joyous Noircon elegy

I had about a month's worth of experiences yesterday alone at Noircon 2012, which has just ended, but I'll need some sleep, a good meal, and some fresh air before I can post comprehensively on this eccentric, variegated, highly enjoyable yet intellectually intense conference.

For now, a bit about the convention's highlight: Duane Swierczynski's keynote interview with Lawrence Block. Block was a fount of entertaining and instructive stories from a writing career that has spanned at least fifty-four years, and Swierczynski combined a fan boy’s enthusiasm, an archivist’s knowledge, and a Borscht Belt comic's flair for showing off.

I’ll likely have more to say about the interview in future posts, but what I found most moving was Block’s recognition that the end of his writing career may be near, that it will likely come on his own terms, and that he seems to look back with great satisfaction on his prolific and highly accomplished output. I’d call what he had to say a joyous elegy, if there’s such a thing.

He did say once, “I’m tired,” but mainly he said things like this, in reply to a question about whether he had more novels planned beyond the hundred or so he’s already written:
”Anything I’ve wanted to share with the world, I’ve long since committed, so, while I wouldn’t rule [it] out…
and
”If I’d had stellar success early on, I’m sure I would have written a lot less. I’m happy with the way things turned out”
So, I’m sure, are crime readers everywhere.
***
Cullen Gallagher offers a chronicle in words and pictures of Friday's Noircon panels.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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17 Comments:

Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

Can't wait to hear more.

November 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's on the way. I'll offer a few more examples in support of this post's argument, more good stuff from the interview, more good stuff from the convention. It really was a full four days.

November 12, 2012  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Peter,

Lawrence Block was amazing! I just hope I'm 1/10th that funny when I reach his august age. Interesting that two great American writers, Lawrence Block and Phillip Roth, both recently said they probably won't write any more. Hey, sit back, smoke a jay, pour a glass of single malt scotch, put your feet up. They both deserve some time off! Duane was pretty funny himself and asked great questions.

Cullen's Noircon pics on Pulp Serenade are great too.

I was great hanging @ Noircon in Philly this past weekend. Can't think of a damn thing I'd rather have done.

Cheers,

Jonathan Woods
www.southernnoir.com

November 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had just now read about Phillip Roth's announcement, and I made the same connection you did. I'd replace "pour a glass of single male scotch" with "open a bottle of 20-year-aged tawny port," though.

November 12, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

...single male scotch

Hey, Peter! Can you get me one of these? If so, where should I pick him up? I'll pay you back!

November 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! Now, can I work up one of my whimsical titles from that typo?

November 12, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Why else would I have drawn your attention to it? I'm counting on you!

November 12, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Single Male Scotch: She thought she wanted one thing. Then another proved her undoing.

November 12, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to read, and looking forward to more. However, re: Block, I believe he would turn down both the alcohol and the joint, and be thankful for that. What a writer! One of the few I can read over and over.

November 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, and here's a bit more, in the form of a link to Block's award acceptance speech at Noircon.

I don't know much about Block's personal history, but I have to think there's no way he could have written so much over so many years if he had real problems with drugs or alcohol. Readers confuse writers with their characters (I'm just as guilty of this as anybody), and perhaps many identify Block with Matt Scudder and presume that the character's problems are also the writer's.

November 15, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not about "confus[ing the] writer with their character." There is such a thing as a "functional alcoholic." Block has talked about (and around) his earlier alcohol problems in some non-fiction work (see Step by Step) and in interviews, but is very careful in how he says what he says. LB stopped drinking in the 1970's and his best work (I believe) came after that. And I'd best stop there.

November 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd guess that the more vivid and memorable protagonist, the greater the tendency for readers to identify protagonist and author.

I'm not a completist, just a casual Blockhead who's read seven or eight of his books. But I did notice that the first Scudder book appeared in 1976, which might tally nicely with the end of his drinking. But, off my experience with Grifter's Game, he was also a hell of a writer in the classic noir mode early on.

November 15, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

She thought she wanted one thing. Then another proved her undoing.

Yeah, you're prolly right. I'd best face reality and admit my faded charms are no match for those of the lubricious and nubile 20-year-old Tawny Port.

November 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Single-Male Scotch: All she needed was one shot.

November 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tawny Port is a fine name for a character. You see? You can play this game, too.

November 15, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

All she needed was one shot.

Ah, I like that one. No spring water, no soda.

Now think of something incorporating "on the rocks."

November 15, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

On the Rocks could be the title of the second in the series.

She wanted everything neat. But she wound up ...

November 15, 2012  

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