Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful for Black Friday

Since I once read that the term Black Friday to designate the masochistic shopping crush in which all those other people are engaged at this moment originated in Philadelphia, I see no harm in bringing back this post from 2010 about Black Friday, by Philadelphia's own David Goodis.

TODAY ONLY: Stay home and read this book instead of going to the mall, and derive 70% more pleasure from your reading!!!
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I read David Goodis's 1954 novel Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day, and I can see why the French love this guy. The book's bleak, uncertain ending reminds me strongly of Jean-Patrick Manchette.

I also got a kick out of its mention of my newspaper and out of its references to Dizzy Gillespie and the painters Corot and Courbet.

Here's a routine bit of description whose tone is, however, indicative of Goodis' bleakness:
"The front of the cellar* was divided into two sections, one for coal, the other for old things that didn't matter too much."
And here's a tiny excerpt from Black Friday read at Goodis' graveside.
============
* I know of no Goodis story in which cellars do not play a part: Black Friday, Down There, "Black Pudding." That has to say something about Goodis. Here’s your humble blogkeeper reading from “Black Pudding.”

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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36 Comments:

Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

That's a great quote!

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Nan said...

Wow, this sounds great from someone I've never heard of. I went to the link - The Writer in the Gutter. Now, I must begin reading Goodis, even though noir isn't what I read very often.

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, another writer would have been either more specific or more general: either just "junk" or else a list of the old things. But Goodis's choice invests the sentence with a chilling emotional punch. I haven't read much Goodis, but I'll read more now.

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Nan, It's nice to get excited enough about a writer that you think of jumping genres. What I like about the bit is that Goodis infuses even a routine passage with the bleak tone that carries the book.

November 26, 2010  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Can I be blamed if I think a body will turn up in the non-coal section of the cellar?

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No one could blame you for that reasonable but wrong guess.

November 26, 2010  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

But, but...that's contra everything Chekhov said! "If a gun is introduced in the first act it must be fired by the third!" (Substitute "cellar" for gun.)

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Further comment would take me dangerously close to spoiler land. Read the book (it's just 162 pages long), then come back for more discussion.

November 26, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I hate to admit to ignorance, on the simple grounds that if I started I'd never be able to stop, but I've never read any David Goodis. Not through lack of trying, though. His books are hard to find.

Your excellent post doesn't link to davidgoodis.com which, if nothing else, has a great photo of the man himself in a Bogie and Bacall sandwich. I know Elisabeth thinks of Bogie as a runt, but I'd hate to think what name she'd come with for Goodis based on this photograph. Of course, she'd probably be too busy focusing on Bogie's hairline to bother looking at the size of the gentleman standing beside him.

As you say, the French do like their Goodis. Of the ten movies made of Goodis novels, eight of them were made in France. I'd love to see the movie version of Black Friday which stars two of my favourite actors, Jean Louis Trintignant and Robert Ryan.

BTW, what's the origin of the term 'Black Friday'? Is it really nothing more than the day retailers' books go into the black? Ah, isn't America wonderful?. It's the only country in the world where accountants can come up with an evocative terminology.

November 26, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

BTW, who is this eejit?

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You known damn well that that eejit is me. And here is the source of ”Chubby Cambodian hotties.” (The interviewer, by the way, is Duane Swierczynski. Put that in your pipe and spell it.)

November 26, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I've read scarcely more Goodis than you have, just Black Friday and the short story "Black Pudding." The photo to which you refer is famous, almost always shown as a prelude to a discussion of Goodis' subsequent flameout in Hollywood and retreat to Philadelphia, where he write the work for which he is known best today.

One source says Black Friday as a term for the day after Thanksgiving originated in Philadelphia.

November 26, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, in my universe, putting chubby and hotties in the same sentence is what's known as an oxymoron.

I presume it was only modesty that prevented you from linking to this touching tribute to David Goodis.

Good stuff, Peter. You should consider adding a podcast to DBB. You've got the voice to carry it off splendidly.

November 27, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Oops! You did link to that! How did I miss it? Link-fatigue, perhaps. Or is there a better term for it than that? Still, good stuff, all the same.

November 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the compliment, solo. I enjoy moderating panels at conventions, but I can't stand listening to recordings of my voice. I always sound like I have a cold. Of course, given the weather the day of the Goodis tribute, I may in fact have had one.

Chubby Cambodian hotties is the most felicitous of oxymorons if it's an oxymoron at all.

November 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, it's not necessarily link-fatigue or a short attention span. The paragraph that includes the link tp my reading was a late addition. It may not have been part of the post when you made your first comment.

November 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The keeper of http://www.davidgoodis.com/, by the way, is a Philadelphia guy I know from Noircons and the Goodis graveside memorial. He gave me a lift to the latter, as a matter of fact.

November 27, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solo, I've just watched the clip from the "Black Friday" movie -- without sound; I'm at work. A couple of the actors look like superb choices for their roles, and did you see who wrote the screenplay? Sebastien Japrisot.

November 27, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, I don't really understand your last comment. Here in Ireland Sebastian Japrisots are two-a-penny. OK, I just made that up.

Thanks to the magic realism of Wikipedia I now know (isn't English spelling and pronunciation wonderful) that Sebastian Japrisot is an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi (without the hyphen, obviously). At least that's what Wikipedia says. I'm too lazy to actually bother to check if it's correct. Perhaps, Canadians are built differently.

Somebody (God knows who) once came up with the notion of serendipidity. Not the kind of thing I would take seriously. But!

Yesterday, I read a quote by Mark Twain which said:

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

I immediately thought of the film: A Very Long Engagement. That title would not work "very" well as A Long Engagement, and it certainly wouldn't work as A Damn Long Engagement.

The film A Very Long Engagement was of course based on a book by a fellow called Sebastian Japrisot.

I love coincidences, but I don't love writers who love coincidences.

November 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I beg to disagree. A Damn Long Engagement would make a fine title.

I wonder when and by what process of linguistic alchemy very evolved from a synonym for true into the dreary, all-purpose intensifier it is today, at least in American English.

November 29, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, there's no such thing as linguistic alchemy. It's called usage. Get used to it.

November 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A change in usage is the effect; I was inquiring after the cause.

Linguistic alchemy (a lighthearted coinage, lest you be tempted to take it more seriously than it deserves) is an apt term. Shifts in usage can seem as mysterious to contemporary users of a language as alchemy once must have seemed to the initiated.

November 29, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

I beg to disagree. A Damn Long Engagement would make a fine title

Yes, it would be a wonderful title. But an archaic one. It certainly wouldn' mean to a modern reader what it meant to Twain.

Cause and effect are terms derived from science. I don't think that they're not much use in understanding language and its constantly changing usages.

All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn

That was Hemmingway's opinion. Massively overstated, of course. Unless you want to write Hawthorne or Melville out of the equation.

I like Twain's writing. Who doesn't? But he was a cranky old bugger, and while he managed to rise above his times more often than most, his notions about language are strictly 19th century.

Have you been reading the (almost) newly released Twain autobiography, Peter? I've only read the reviews, which are mixed, to say the least.

Incidentally, I wasn't intending to be controversial in my remarks, but you're either very anti-very, or very pro-Twain. I wouldn't put very on any linguistic blacklist, myself, but then we all have our own pet hates.

November 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'm very pro-Twain; I love his damn advice almost as much as loved Roughing It.

Coincidentally, though, I posted a critical reply recently to someone who quoted him on Twitter (so I can't vouch for the quotation's accuracy) as having said that it was a pity Jane Austen had been allowd to die a natural death. I replied that that may have been the only stupid thing Mark Twain ever said. I once made up a fantasy guest list for a dinner party of writers and artists from the past. Both Mark Twain and Jane Austen were on the list. I like to think I'd have been able to reconcile Twain and Austen. I'd even be willing to make an exception just for him to Philadelphia's indoor smoking ban.

November 29, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Mark Twain holds forth:

To me his prose is unreadable -- like Jane Austin's [sic]. No there is a difference. I could read his prose on salary, but not Jane's. Jane is entirely impossible. It seems a great pity that they allowed her to die a natural death
- Letter to W. D. Howells, 18 January 1909

Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book
- quoted in Remembered Yesterdays, Robert Underwood Johnson

I haven't any right to criticise books, and I don't do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone
- Letter to Joseph Twichell, 13 September 1898

Erm, I'll think of something to say in a minute, once I stop scratching my shin-bone.

Btw, I just noticed that the assistant director on the French movie version of Black Friday was Jean-Jacques Beineix, who went on to direct one of my favourite films: Diva. I used to hate opera but this scene from Diva opened my mind a little bit. The lousy sound quality of YouTube doesn't do it justice but hearing it in a cinema made me go Wow!

The movie also features Tiza Farrow, sister of Mia. Sorry for bothering you with such trivia, Peter, but I'm a bit of a trivia-hound myself.

November 29, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' ..."

Apparently something kept him not just reading Jane Austen but rereading her. In any case, such an unaccountable lapse in taste from so brilliant writer is an invigorating reminder that no one is perfect and that surprises await us at all turns.

Now, what other movie from which I recently saw a clip also includes Tiza Farrow?

I saw Diva on its initial release and did not like it. But that was years ago; what the hell did I know? Maybe I just don't like crime-related that embrace classical music. I didn't like The Beat That My Heart Skipped either.

November 29, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, Tisa Farrow's last few movies were Italian horror movies. The kind of dreck I like to check out from time to time. She did appear in Manhatten and a TV movie about Patty Hearst.

I just found out from Wikipedia that the Beatles song Dear Prudence was written about another Farrow sister. John Lennon and Prudence Farrow met in an ashram in India. It was the 60s. Need I say more. (It may be sacrilige, but I prefer the Siouxsie and the Banshees version)

I saw Diva on its initial release and did not like it. But that was years ago; what the hell did I know?

Taste is such an interesting subject. But the more I read about it, the more confused I get. I don't think it has anything to do with knowledge. It has a strong social component, but that's only part of the story.

I liked Diva; you disliked Diva. All one can derive from that is that taste is a very personal and a very mysterious business.

Or as Twain might have said, a damn personal and a damn mysterious business.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The Tiza Farrow clip I saw recently may have been anmothr one you posted. And, yes, once you've said John Lennon, you need not say more.

Yes, there's no accounting for taste, but I especially would not trust my judgment on Diva because I have not seen it for so damn many years. I vaguely recall a sensation of being expected to regard the movie as a grave affair because it involved a singer of classical music. I enjoy music qua music, but not so much when it is a vehicle for great messages.

November 30, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Yes, there's no accounting for taste, but I especially would not trust my judgment on Diva because I have not seen it for so damn many years. I vaguely recall a sensation of being expected to regard the movie as a grave affair because it involved a singer of classical music. I enjoy music qua music, but not so much when it is a vehicle for great messages.

Gosh! I liked Diva because I found it delightfully frivolous. And of course, good-looking. The French came up with the term cinéma du look to describe such films. Although it's not entirely without substance. Beineix describes it as a film about piracy and reproduction, subjects that are even more relevant today than they were thirty years ago. French critics hated it at the time and were rather disgusted that it became such an international success.

I can understand how expectations can colour one's approach to a book or a movie. I have to fight against that all the time, myself, and not always successfully.

Beineix's second movie, which I didn't much care for, was La lune dans le caniveau, based on the Goodis novel, The Moon in the Gutter.

Strange how the likes of David Goodis and Jim Thompson were so ignored in America and so influential in France. Expectations, class and social status probably play a part in that.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was serious when I said I would not trust my judgment of Diva. I recall no frivolity, and now I'm tempted to rent the movie to see what sorts of tricks my memory is playing. I think I'll rent the movie version of Black Friday first, though.

I can't account for why the French like certain American noir writers, but the similarities in tone between Goodis and Thompson on the one hand and Dominique Manotti and Jean-Patrick Manchette on the other are unmistakable.

November 30, 2010  
Anonymous solo said...

Peter, one of the more revered 70s French crime films was Serie Noire, based on the Thompson novel A Hell of A Woman. I watched it on YouTube a while back. As far from the cinéma du look as you could get: horribly, boringly 70s looking, but a good film, especially good in the second half. Patrick Dewaere is wonderful in the leading role.

Did you see that Mario Monicelli died in Rome on Sunday. Aged 95, and suffering from prostate cancer, he committed suicide by throwing himself out the window of his hospital room. As dramatic a scene as you'd hope to find in one of his wonderfully tragicomic movies.

When I read your post on Big Deal on Madonna Street a few months ago, I didn't realize he was still alive.

A quote attributed to him in the NYT:

All Italian comedy is dramatic,” he said in a 2004 interview with Cineaste magazine “The situation is always dramatic, often tragic, but it’s treated in a humorous way. But people die in it, there’s no happy ending. That’s just what people like about it. The Italian comedy, the kind I make, always has this component.

That's exactly what I liked about his movies.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not seen that Mario Monicelli died. I think Big Deal on Madonna Street is the only one of his movies that I've seen, and you know how highly I think of it. Any other recommendations?

Big Deal's ending is, if not unhappy, at least bittersweet.

November 30, 2010  
Blogger Kelly Robinson said...

I love Goodis, but I haven't read this one. Never knew the thing about cellars.

November 29, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't if Goodis scholars have noted any predisposition toward cellars on the man's part, though dark, cold, gloomy rooms do suit the mood of much of his writing.

But it could be just a fluke that the first three works by Goodis that I read features cellars. I don't remember cellars in, say, Dark Passage, which I read after I put up this post.

November 29, 2013  
Blogger Roman Noir said...

Peter have you read The Count of Monte Cristo yet? I think that one would be perfect for Black Friday too.

November 30, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have not. But I have written about adventure stories from time to time here and I shall consider it for a post next Black Friday, if not before.

What makes this a good Black Friday story? I hardly think much shopping could been available in the Château d'If.

December 01, 2013  

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