Monday, July 08, 2013

`Dealing With the Human Animal'

On the flight from New York City back to Houston, I read a novel recommended to me by a reader of this blog – The Wrong Case (1975) by James Crumley. I read little crime fiction beyond Raymond Chandler, but Crumley’s novel never flagged and made the three-hour flight evaporate, and I finished the book as we made our descent into the city. Among other things, Crumley’s novel nicely captures the early-seventies mainstreaming of the previous decade’s ascendant counterculture. Drugs, promiscuity and kneejerk rebelliousness, blurring sometimes into hip nihilism, are suffusing even the middle class. At the time, for a young adult, it all seemed thrilling, a peer-sanctioned program for endlessly postponing adulthood. The book’s narrator, hard-drinking doper and P.I. Milo Milodragovitch, writes:

“The counterculture revolution had done something for America: it let a lot of young people handle idiot jobs by getting stoned.”
Crumley has a gift, amidst the violence and depravity, for polishing the occasional aphorism: “To be childlike might keep a man young, but to be treated like a child makes him old too soon.” And this bit of Montaignean wit:
“There is a quaintly modern notion that information will eventually equal knowledge, which is neatly balanced by the cliché that the more one learns, the less one knows. Both ideas are probably more or less accurate, but neither is particularly useful in dealing with the human animal.”

1 comment:

George said...

I read one of the "Milo" novels and thought the sex not sociological but a mechanical decoration. Presently I was wondering whether the novel was sponsored by the Montana Department of Tourism. As Marvin Mudrick said of a novel of Bernard Malamud's: come see our mountains and climb our women.