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Take the Train, Take the Train


I’m on a Pete Dexter jag. After reading his new book, Spooner, I tore through Paris Trout (his masterpiece), The Paperboy, and Brotherly Love. It might not be wise to load-up on such a concentrated dose of anyone as powerful, and disturbing as Dexter, but it’s my nature–I can’t help but diving in head first.

It’s like watching Mad Men or The Sopranos on DVD. There is something unnatural about ripping through shows back-t0-back without the suspense of having to wait a week for the next episode. You lose something without the anticipation, the time to mull things over. But if the show grabs you, how do you stop?

If you are a glutton, you don’t.  And so I’m going to read the rest of Dexter’s novels–Deadwood, God’s Pocket, and Train, whether it is healthy or not.  I’m enjoying myself too much to stop now, though I’m taking a week off before I start God’s Pocket.

Back in 2003, Sports Illustrated ran a long excerpt from Train, a story about a black kid caddying at a country club in Post War Los Angeles.

Worth checking out cause Dexter is a sheer pleasure to read:

The fat man couldn’t turn it loose. Got the sun in the sky, birds in the trees, shine on his shoes—everything a gentleman need but two wives and a death wish, as the old saying went—but he still just stood there froze over the ball, the seconds ticking away, like somebody couldn’t pee for the nurse.

And yellow pants, speaking of urination.

The boy was a few steps behind the fat man and to the side, carrying his bag. He’d been standing by watching half the morning, and there was something about the fat man he still couldn’t place. Something familiar that reminded him of something else. The boy waited for the connection to come, not trying to hurry it along.

Connections came to him all the time—people to things and things to people, things to each other, surprises and amusedments out of the thin air—it wasn’t anything he did to cause it, and sometimes, like now, he knew one was there before he knew what it was.

And sometimes, of course, it turned out to be a surprise but not no amusedment at all.

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1 Yankee Mama   ~  Oct 13, 2009 12:12 pm

I'm reading Spooner right now. Writing that good should be illegal. Can you say blown away?

2 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 13, 2009 1:35 pm

Yeah, he's dumb nice. Wait until you get to "Paris Trout." Not as likable but I dare you to put it down.

3 Yankee Mama   ~  Oct 13, 2009 1:55 pm

Read that years ago. It was intense. What did you think of Brotherly Love and The Paperboy?

4 The Hawk   ~  Oct 13, 2009 1:56 pm

"Amusedment"? I don't get it. What's the deal with the voice there? Seems caught between one thing and another.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 13, 2009 2:12 pm

Train is the only book Dexter uses a dialect even as the narrator. Which explains "amusedment." Don't know if it works as a device throughout.

BROTHERLY LOVE was brutal and cold. Not a lot to love there, in terms of characters, but I thought it was gripping. I really enjoyed THE PAPERBOY, good look at the newspaper business, but also a seedy, creepy subplot in there that is just really unnerving.

6 The Hawk   ~  Oct 13, 2009 4:06 pm

Is the narrator anonymous/omniscient? That would be weird to use a dialect there, I'd think. Seems like it would be distracting. Then again I was driven crazy by Cormac McCarthy's lack of quotes for dialogue for years before I could actually get into even one of his books, now I eat that shit up.

7 Alex Belth   ~  Oct 13, 2009 4:31 pm

I only read "No Country For Old Men," and found the minimalism distracting. "The Road" looks BRUTAL. Which of his books would you suggest?

8 The Hawk   ~  Oct 13, 2009 5:58 pm

The Road is great. No Country is a very good book I think, but the least of all the novels of his I've read. The absolute titan is Blood Meridian, and it is anything but minimalist. In fact all his stuff prior to All The Pretty Horses (which is the first one I read and is great) is dense and Faulkneresque. I think No Country for No Men is probably the simplest prose, if I remember correctly. They're all heartbreaking but very "true", I think; I can get as annoyed with forced darkness as contrived lightness and I don't get that sense from his stuff. There's a certain inevitability to things where as ****ed up as they are, it just seems right.

I'd save the Road for last, if you like his other books. I think if you get into McCarthy you'll see why.

Blood Meridian and all subsequent novels except The Road (I guess)take place in the southwest US. Books previous to Blood Meridian - I think I haven't read two or three are in the southeast and most are in the "olden days" (western and eastern books).

I think start anywhere with the "middle" three: Suttree is his most personal book by far (it seems, at least), and for that something of an anomaly Blood Meridian his batshit crazy biblical epic to end all epics and All The Pretty Horses his first real step towards general accessibility. The Road, again, is phenomenal too and accessible.

I love it when people read Cormac McCarthy!

9 ColoYank   ~  Oct 14, 2009 9:43 pm

OMG, OMG, "Train" is an amazing read! Seldom are the blurbs on the cover of books anything but lame hype, but one statement on the back of my copy of "Train" said that Dexter's writing "cuts to the bone." How exactly right is that?!

I loved "Train." It's the only Dexter I've read, other than a few columns in the S.F. Examiner when we both inhabited the Bay Area. Here's how much I liked the book:


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