Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pulp According to David Goodis: A NOVEL SIMILAR TO GOODS’ OWN “SUICIDE Notes” by Jay Gertzman


This quotation is one critic’s way of describing Goodis’ brand of noir. It’s also reminiscent of Kafka’s statement of some writers’ careers being their “suicide notes.” It seems an accurate description of most Goodis’ books, but especially his last, _Somebody’s Done For_, the suicide being a death-in-life, due to resignation and quiet despair.
Seymour Shubin began his career with the very successful _Anyone’s My Name_ in 1953. It’s about a reporter of true crime stories whose publishers want sensationalism. A typical one would be a murder of a crippled man who had seen the reporter in bed with a woman whom he was interviewing. The victim had power, therefore, to ruin the reporter’s career and marriage.
This is the true story of what had happened to the reporter himself. One reckless moment destroys his career. Shubin draws skillfully the unraveling, both in the police investigation, the revelation his wife suffers, and most importantly, the reporter’s growing understanding of what he had done, not only to his loving wife and the victim, but also to his readers, allowing them to view as a moment’s entertainment (Goodis described himself as a mere “entertainer”) an fatal, all-too-human instant where the protagonist becomes aware of how he had aided and abetted shallow scapegoating, and suffered harsh justice for doing so.. Mass man is carefully taught to mark the “perpetrator” as subhuman in a way that prevents human empathy.
Now, the reporter is the one scapegoated. The story is told first person. It is in a way (no spoilers I hope) his suicide note. Shubin pulls no punches, allowing the reader’s empathy to grow, and at the same time drawing out the tragic implications.
The reporter becomes a noble loser – similar in self-awareness and fate to Eddie in _Down There_, Whitey in _Street of No Return_, Hart in _Black Friday_, and Chet Lawrence in _Street of the Lost_. And like them, he does not remain passive:
“I rose up on my toes and grasped the bars. Hello, Hello, all of you, do you hear me out there? Can you hear?” Not quite a suicide note. And maybe a cry to his own readers from Goodis himself.
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