It took many night-time sittings, before going to sleep, to finish James Ellroy’s latest novel, This Storm (2019, Penguin, 608 pages, a hair-raising $33 for the paperback), the second book of his second ‘LA Quartet’.
When I discussed his last novel, Perfidia, I raised the dreadful possibility that maybe Ellroy might be past his prime.
I cannot now honestly say that he isn’t, but it might just be that he’s allowed his editors greater leeway than he should have. To sanitise his prose and rob the story of Ellroy’s trademark manic flavour.
This Storm continues a story arc set in LA during the early 1940s (so far), using most of the same characters as Perfidia. However, as ever, Ellroy is fond of killing some of his characters off along the way.
After weeks of reading about the Michelle Guthrie-Justin Milne battle for the soul of the ABC, I finally watched the 12 November Four Corners programme featuring interviews with both former senior ‘knobs’ at the public broadcaster.
I’ve not read Flanagan’s novels, but I am aware they have been well-received by critics, and he’s won awards for some of them. His prose as a commentator certainly turned out to be smooth, and his arguments impeccable.
The following is an edited excerpt from a letter in which I was putting forward my position on why social media deserve to be censored; an about face on my long-time opinion that censorship is always wrong.
Painful though I think it is, I don’t think Australia is really a liberal democratic society anymore. I think we are closer to an oligarchy, moved in that direction since the 1990s, and still moving there. Not as bad as the USA, but heading in the same direction.
Nor do I believe we have an environment anymore in which voices of reason and authority can effectively counter voices of hate, mischief, or mayhem. The old argument about a marketplace of ideas is dead and ridiculous in the era of social media and anonymous user accounts.
What anonymity on social media platforms has done is enable the most scurrilous hate campaigns because there is no consequence. The coarseness of such behaviour, over time, has begun to legitimise it even for people whose identity is known, like the current US president. It is a devaluation of all that might have been considered liberal democratic, putting us back at the political chicanery of the mid-18th century.
The flash of ‘to the barricades’ anger I encountered recently, when I casually disparaged Jane Austen’s work as not great literature, in what I thought was not that serious a conversation, made me re-examine how I came to make my remark, and why the anger I encountered knocked me back on my cognitive haunches.
It is true that another impetus for delving into this subject is my recent preoccupation with literary critique more generally, but my focus here is Austen, my prejudices about her writing, and how they clash with orthodox views.
As with all of James Ellroy’s fiction since the 1990s, I am infatuated with the book. With the prose and the characters. Unlike Ellroy’s previous fiction, this one exposes something new, hinting at something that was never Ellroy before. Or maybe it is a change in my perceptions, seeing something that isn’t there, or was always there.
What I think connects me with Ellroy’s fiction most of all is an old-fashioned idea of passion. The kind that drives courtship and romance, but also anger and violence. It is the id unleashed to dramatic effect, where the base expectation is of chaste and civilised containment in an orderly, ordered society. Writing for The Telegraph, Chris Harvey relayed some of Ellroy’s thoughts on this powerful driver of life and dramatic tension: Continue reading “Perfidia (2014)”
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
– apocryphal, Ernest Hemingway
The Lloyd Hopkins trilogy is not Lee Earle ‘James’ Ellroy’s first work, nor his best. But I can see that he sat his typewriter and bled to produce it. Perhaps he just didn’t bleed quite enough. It seems that Hopkins is Ellroy’s fictional alter ego: tall, energetic, nervy, intuitive. A genius cop who breaks all the rules. A womaniser who ruins his marriage that way. A dark past that hovers over him.
This essay is a reply to a comment by Michael H on an editorial I wrote in August about the Electronic Frontiers Foundation and the Tor Project defending the right for the American neo-Nazi online Daily Stormer to be granted hosting and DNS propagation. It started as a reply to the reply, but grew longer than expected, and is therefore presented as an essay in its own right.
Fifteen, twenty years ago I would probably have agreed with all of Michael H’s points. What happened since then included the personal experience of watching Western centre-left parties become conservative, and conservatives become openly, unashamedly corrupt lackeys of short-sighted plutocrats. Short-sighted because they act nihilistically to destroy a consumer base they need to sustain their own profitability over the longer term, and to maintain stable societies in which consumption, not civil strife, is the leitmotif.