Precious Cargo

Refreshingly Bitter And Twisted Observations On Life's Passing Parade.

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Location: Valley Village, California, United States

Friday, August 04, 2006

Profiting From Your Misfortune

"I always survive. God gave me that skill. I'm an L.A. opportunist. My alchemist's license was issued in L.A. I know how to turn dung into gold.

This essay is a travel document and a homecoming brief. It will stand as my final autobiographical statement."

How is it that I'm skeptical of that last promise? I'm getting really tired of James Ellroy's "my dark past" shtick where he tells his life story, heavy on his mother's murder and his subsequent misspent years in Los Angeles.

Maybe he does it because it's always been the most interesting thing he has to sell. I remember when Ellroy first popped up on the cultural-celebrity radar. It was 1986, and Harlan Ellison had taken over the reins of Hour 25, a radio show broadcast on Friday nights from KPFK. Ellison had Ellroy on, but it was raining heavily, and in typical KPFK SNAFU fashion, the rain somehow caused the station's signal from the transmitter to get screwed up, so all I heard was a few minutes of the show.

No matter. Ellroy was soon all over the place and has been unavoidable since. Ellroy started using his mother's murder and its influence on his life in 1986 when The Black Dahlia was published and every article or interview with him since then is sure to include it.

I don't know how many times I've heard Ellroy talk about how he'd never come back to LA or how he was finished writing LA-based novels.

Now he's broken both vows at once.

It's gone beyond tired, Ellroy. It's an act that's become a ritual and calcified into stone.

Tell us about something besides your poor, murdered mom and how it screwed you up. Tell us something new, if you can. If you can't, fall silent. I’m also deeply suspicious of how much of his autobiographical revelations are the product of a skilled novelist’s ability to create a theatrical backstory and persona to sell his books.

In his monomaniacal repetitiousness, Ellroy's become the noir Woody Allen.

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