Saturday, October 20, 2007

Self-reference unto death ("Slide," by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr)

Self-reference has been a big topic here lately, and Slide, by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr, is an absolute riot of the practice. The least of it is the epigraph to the novel's fifth chapter, a quotation from Bust, by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr.

In the book proper, the obnoxious, venal but hapless Max Fisher cokes and martinis himself into a belief that his quips belong in a book, "like those Hard Case books with those women on the covers. Max had never picked one up but man, those guys know how to use a pair of tits to sell a book." Guess who publishes Bust and Slide. (This self-reference is especially ironic. Though Bust is named for that particular part of a woman's anatomy, the Bruen and Starrs show far less flesh than most of the gloriously lurid Hard Case covers.)

And, in a jocosely creepy example, Slide fantasizes Bruen's own death. The novel's drug-addled, hysterical psychotic killer/kidnapper of a title character plots to kidnap Keith Richards for ransom, but:

Whoever this guy was, he wasn't Keith Richards. He was in his fifties, thick lips, with a scar to the right of his mouth, a button nose and blue eyes. The guy had to be fooking Irish.

The guy went. "Don't you know me? ... I'm a crime writer ... I've won the Macavity for – "

Slide shut him off, roared, "Ary Christ, shut the fook up or I'll remove all your fookin' cavities and your tonsils too! Are you somebody? Anyone give a damn about you?"

The guy looked crestfallen, stammered, "I-I got starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist ... well, maybe I caught them on an off day b-but– "

Slide gave him a slap on the mouth, said, "I don't want to hear about your bloody career. I want to hear somebody will pay cash, lots of cash to have you back.
The thin fook was going, "I wrote a book with another guy. Maybe he can– "

But he never got to finish as Slide lashed the crowbar into his teeth, then took out the bastard's left eye with an almighty swing. ... Slide panicked. He opened the door, kicked the body out, and went, "That should sell some books."
© Peter Rozovsky 2007

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Blogger Dave Knadler said...

While I like that excerpt, I think I'd get a little tired of the author winking at me all the time. Eventually, it has to erode the suspension of disbelief that even ironic fiction must occasionally demand.

October 20, 2007  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't think the winking is all that prevalent, as unrestrained as the examples I've provided may be. (On the other hand, perhaps I recognize the Bruen-related winks because I'd read eight of his novels before this one. I'd read none of Jason Starr's, except his previous collaboration with Bruen, so perhaps I missed scads of Starr self-references.)

Although the novel induces the occasional flash of dark queasiness that any noir ought to, it's essentially two writers out to have fun. I accept the winking in that spirit and give it a pass, although I didn't laugh out loud as often as I did when reading Bust.

October 21, 2007  

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