Monday, June 1, 2009

A Pedestrian Work At Best?

Lawrence Block is the author of over a hundred books in a career spanning the timeline of modern suspense fiction. Among the stacks of the Block library, I would single out his fine turn at the typewriter as a contributing columnist at Writer's Digest which were collected into the book Telling Lies for Fun & Profit. I've talked about that book before and you'll no doubt hear it again at some point. Unlike King's On Writing, which doubled as a memoir of sorts, in Telling Lies, Block's strange career path are present only in brief glimpses and anecdotes told to underline his points. The book is a collection of essays on the writer's craft, after all. Hidden behind a veil of self-deprecating humor, he tells you just enough to make you wonder how many stories he has left to tell and look forward to the telling. Block has obligingly penned a memoir (which I missed entirely until I saw this article) and early reviews are heartening for his many fans. It is no secret that Block has tangled with alcoholism -- a topic that bled through into his fiction as the irascible Matthew Scudder followed him onto the wagon -- and he even gave us a wonderful writer-oriented serenity prayer as his closing salvo in Telling Lies. And one expects there to be a certain amount of the 'Drying out' story in his memoir. Also according to the book, he began his career penning stories for the confession magazines popular in the 1950's and eventually made his way into novels by strange roads. And for all the anecdotes and rumors of anecdotes he gives us in Telling Lies, you get the impression that there's more where those came from. The sort that his editors at Writer's Digest didn't have the stomach to print. Oddly - perhaps perversely - his memoir focuses less on telling us of the bizarre path he took to achieve the transition from a career penning 'I Was a Teenage Lesbian Hitchhiker' (or whatever) to become the grand master of suspense fiction. It apparently focuses primarily on his pursuit of pedestrian glory as a competitive racewalker. Normally, I would find the notion of a literary memoir told through the lens of competetive racewalking to be dubious at best. But this is Larry Block. And if anyone can pull off the subtle racewalking metaphor... well... I have to believe he can. So another book has been inserted into my summer reading list. Just as soon as I finish Michael Connelly's The Scarecrow I'll track down Mr. Block's tale. A tale of a man putting one foot in front of the other and striving to get some distance between where he started and the finish line before he runs out of time...

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).