Friday, May 18, 2007

"I expect that I will be talked about at the end of 1,000 years."

Far too many hours in Guinea were passed with fellow blogger, ñamaku, and me lounging on the stained cushions of the Labé regional house reading to each other excerpts from the modern day classic, Chinaman's Chance, a novel the New Yorker(!) claims holds "enough plot to overwhelm a trilogy, and the Washington Post(!) calls "A classic of the genre" by "master storyteller" (and possible spy) Ross Thomas.

Namaku and I would laugh ourselves silly with characters, such as "The man with the six greyhounds" and "The pretender to the imperial throne of China." If you at all doubt Thomas's mastery of the English language, just read the book's opening line: "It was while jogging along the beach just east of the Paradise Cove pier that Artie Wu tripped over a dead pelican, fell, and met the man with six greyhounds."

Despite appearances, the story is apparently intended as a serious thriller. Even today, the author has a small, almost polite following, none of whom, apparently, see any humor in the story's ridiculous set-up, nor in Thomas's over-the-top schlock. Their loss.

Thomas, of course, isn't the only purveyor of dime-store doozies, nor are ñamaku and I the first to poke fun at their expense: This article from The Telegraph describes how C.S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and Mark Twain, among other authors of the time, would, as a sort of joke, read out loud to each other the works of a certain Amanda McKittrick Ros, a woman so convinced of her greatness that she believed her works would "be talked about at the end of 1,000 years."

And what would we be talking about? Lines such as these, perhaps:
"The living sometimes learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the tempted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthy future, and form to swell the retinue of retired rights, the righteous school of the invisible and the rebellious roar of the raging nothing."
Well played, McKittrick, but you've still got nothing on Thomas's economy of line.

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