Saturday, September 26, 2009

James Ellroy, Part II

I don't know if anyone could justly accuse James Ellroy of humility, but he did show some candor when a member of last night's audience in Philadelphia asked if he had a favorite among movie adaptations of his novels.

L.A. Confidential was a fine movie, he said, and I believe he remarked that sometimes one gets lucky with adaptations, and sometimes one does not. But, he said, "I would never criticize an adaptation, because I took the dough."

Ellroy read from his new novel, Blood's a Rover, at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Central Library. Perhaps because the library had recently survived a city budget crisis and the threat of closure, he stressed the formative roles that public libraries and reading had played in his life. And he repeated, amid many plugs for the new book, that "if you don't have the cash, the gelt, the dinero" to buy the novel, you can read it free at the library.

He also told the crowd that the pillars of his upbringing were the Lutheran Church and Confidential magazine, where he could read "who was a homo, a nympho, a dipso, a lesbo," and he invited "the most invasive questions" the audience could come up with.

These questions naturally concerned sex and money, and Ellroy neatly, gracefully and amusingly sidestepped them. A showman he is, and one who, at least last night, knew for every second exactly what he was up to.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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37 Comments:

Blogger booksandacupofcoffee said...

Hi! Peter,
Thanks, for sharing...that was a very interesting to read.
By the way,(James)Ellroy's next appearance...for your readers who live in Bethesda, MD is at...

The Writer's Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815
9/26/2009

DeeDee ;-D

September 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know what time that event begins, but if you're reading this and you're near Bethesda, I recommend that you find out and get there if you can. The man puts on a good show. He writes some good books, too.

September 26, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

That's how a writer should be. Bold and unafraid. He sounds a bit like the chaplain at the end of Catch 22.

I look forward to his appearance on Ellen.

September 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Bold, unafraid and, to this Ellroy neophyte, an unexpectedly gleeful entertainer.

Is he really going to be on Ellen? I wonder how the lesbo line would go over. I suspect she'd regard it as an accurate reflection of the salacious spirit of the Hollywood gossip Ellroy loved so much.

There’s a good 1996 interview with Ellroy here.

September 26, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Nah, Ellroy would gladly go on I'm sure but she panders to the taste of white bread middle America so she wouldnt have him. If he's not on Charlie Rose though that man has seriously lost his compass.

September 26, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I wonder what Ellroy would be like on television. On the one hand, he said things at the library like "The new novel is for the whole fucking family -- if your family is the Manson family." On the other, as the introduction to the interview to which I linked above says, he "loves to do press." But then, even that "whole fucking family" line was clearly aimed at its audience. The man knows who he's talking to and would probably have no trouble adjusting to the exigencies of any situation he chose to get himself into. He always provided succinct answers to serious questions, so I'm sure he'd be good if wanted to be.

Stuart Neville is supposed to interview him on stage in Belfast in November. I wonder if he's met Ellroy. Maybe I can give Stuart some tips if I see him in Indianapolis in a few weeks.

September 26, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Stuart and James are email buddies. They've never actually met but they do "talk" a lot over the email.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ellroy certainly was unrestrained in his praise for Stuart's book. And from the excerpts Stuart posted, the praise may be well-deserved.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Ellen and Ellroy: Together at Last.


Come on, it could happen. I like Ellen, though I hate talk shows, so I've never seen her since she started this format. It could be because I am white bread middle America, except that since I'm living in Santa Cruz, the bread should probably be multi-grain whole wheat. Or actually, since wheat is now the bad guy, make mine gluten free spelt.

Wonder what kind of sandwiches Ellroy eats. It could be a dealbreaker.

I hope someone is going to report in from Bethesda. We could have a "Where in the World is James Ellroy?" kind of thing going on.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

From my brief experience, I'd say Ellroy would endanger no one if he appeared on a talk show. He's an entertainer. I say Ellroy-De Generes would be no Pekar-Letterman.

Oh, is whole wheat now bad? As always when the winds change in matters of diet fashions, one must ask cui bono? This is Latin for "follow the money." Whole wheat is one of my favorite kinds of bread, and I may bump it up the list now.

Yes, I hope DeeDee and Gerard will keep us posted on Ellroy. Since he was so much more ebullient than I expected, I'd be curious about whether he maintains a similar demeanor in his other appearences.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Pekar & Ellroy will still be read for pleasure 100 years from now. Letterman I think will be remembered by academics only.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps Letterman will be remembered by Pekar fans, too.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger booksandacupofcoffee said...

Hi! Peter,

@ Here goes author James Ellroy's schedule of event(s) for your readers who are interested in attending a reading or an event.
(Oh Yes, the time for each event is listed too!)

View Ellroy's Schedule of Events

@ Oops...in my previous comment I meant to write... "that was very interesting to read.”

DeeDee ;-D

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. Readers will now know that I'd recommend attending any of these events.

And there, Seana, are the answers to your question where in the world is James Ellroy?

September 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Thanks, Dee Dee. Still curious where all he's going once he's crossed the Atlantic, though.


Yes, Peter, wheat is now very very bad. I don't want to poke too much fun at this, because I do know a few people who have become very ill due to gluten allergies, which is quite a drag considering how hard it is to avoid wheat, but there is a tendency for people to jump aboard the latest health bandwagon whether it has anything to do with them or not.

September 27, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

My cousin has celiac disease. She has to eat special gluten-free breads and pasta, and avoid many cereal -based foods. She cannot even drink beer, for instance.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Yep, that's what my friend has too. And yes, there are more things proscribed than you would initially imagine.

However, living in Santa Cruz and working at a bookstore, I have certainly had the health nut fringe hold me a captive audience at the cash register as they impart some sort of conspiracy or perhaps colonization theory about how evil wheat has taken over the world.

v word=fabler

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I had a friend here who had gluten allergies. His last name rhymed with gluten, and he was a good sport about the inevitable verse that ensued.

I know, of course, that wheat can be bad, but if we banned everything that could cause allergies ... hey, maybe that's not a bad idea: declare dust illegal.

The bandwagon effect is unpleasant, for the breaches of good manners it can entail; and possibly dangerous for what it may say about the (futile) belief that we humans can perfect ourselves. Not only that, it's a neat tool for transferring money into the pockets of health-ood entrepreneurs. Though the subject has not been explored much, there's a good crime novel waiting to be written about gangs that run false-food-labelling rackets, jacking up the price of items by making extravagant claims about their conformity to current nutritional fashions, then selling the items to supermarkets.

There is a gluten-free bakery about a mile from my house, by the way.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, it would be interesting to know how widely available gluten-free pasta is in Italy. I can well imagine the difficulties that an inability to digest a dietary staple such as pasta could cause.

Seana, speaking of health nuts, I understand that nuts have an equivocal position -- full of good stuff, but fairly high in fats. The next time you're harangued by a food preacher, try to distract him or her by asking about nuts.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had a brief, minor dietary ailment when I spent five months in Italy in 1997. This could have been the beginning of a comedy routine, but the doctor forbade my eating pasta or drinking red wine for a few weeks -- not a proscription that I expect comes easily to the lips of most Italian doctors, unless they are especially fiendish or they enjoy a good joke.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I wouldn't dream of giving them a new topic, Peter.

Actually, one of my friends is allergic to almonds, but she would never hold forth on the topic.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I suspect that people who are allergic to a given food are not the ones haranguing others about it.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Peanut butter is banned from my nephews' elementary school because of the possibility that some pupils may be allergic to peanuts. A hamburger restaurant in Philadelphia that serves free peanuts as a snack posts a warning at the door that customers not take their peanuts outside because of the possibility that some neighborhood children might be allergic to them.

That the neighborhood is heavily commercial, and not residential, is just one reason I regard the warning as vaguely nuts.

September 27, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Marco, it would be interesting to know how widely available gluten-free pasta is in Italy.

Gluten-free products, including bread, pasta and pizza, can be found in most supermarkets and natural food stores. The problem comes when you want to eat out, though some restaurants and pizzerias may prepare gluten-free dishes if you ask beforehand and bring the flour. It seems in recent years the number of cases of celiac disease has risen exponentially.

Peanut butter is banned from my nephews' elementary school because of the possibility that some pupils may be allergic to peanuts.

It may seem extreme, but peanut allergy may cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

full of good stuff, but fairly high in fats

According to a study, people who eat nuts live 2-3 years longer (and it is the season -bloody delicious nuts)

September 27, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread would sound about right then.

I overheard on the plane to Wisconsin this summer that at least this airline had decided to hand out pretzels instead of peanuts this summer though they had had them before.

Peanut butter got some bad street cred earlier this year too, due to unsatisfactory conditions in the factories, but that seems to have faded from memory, at least my own.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I noticed some time ago that pertzels had replaced peanuts as a snack on short flights. I had assumed this was for financial reasons. It had not occurred to me that health considerations might be responsible.

With respect to food and street cred, I have read that one of the causes of despoilation of the Brazilian rain forest is clearing of forest land for soy farms. Soy has monumental cred as a replacement for milk among vegans. I wonder how much of our soy milk comes form Brazil. I have never seen the issue discussed here.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, nuts have traditionally been prepared with high amounts of salt here, which may have inhibited their acceptance as a health food. But yes, many kinds are delicious, including Brazil nuts (called castanhas do Pará in Brazil, in case anyone has ever wondered, after a Brazilian state in which they are grown).

I'm glad I don't have to make public policy with respect to food. How frequent and how dangerous must allergic reactions to justify bans as opposed to lesser precautions? What factors enter into calculation? These are not easy decisions to make.

And I think I will go buy some nuts on my dinner break from work this evening.

September 27, 2009  
Blogger Dana King said...

I live near to Bethesda, and was on the fence whether to attend Ellroy's appearance Saturday evening. I was intrigued, but I also think he's a whack job.

As it turns out, a family commitment kept me away. Now that I've read his comments in this post, I wish I could have gone.

September 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, perhaps he could use a promotional slogan for his publicity tours and readings: "James Ellroy: He's more than a whack job."

Someone commented after the reading that she found his presentation a bit heavy on the schtick. I thought the schtick was all good fun, but there's a definite intelligence at work behind all the mugging and craziness, and that's worth experiencing.

September 28, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

I think that's the thing that comes across in even the briefest encounters, which is what I had--the mind behind the mask.

September 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What form did your encounter take? One could speculate endlessly about the mind, the mask, and the extent to which the latter is part of the former, but one would be better off just reading the books.

September 28, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

He was just hanging out and goofing aroundat the publisher's booth at a trade show I went to once.

It is better to read the books, but I think with someone like Ellroy, it helps to have a few clues as to what his intent is.

September 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I am evidence that you're right about that. I'd half-feated that he would be an incoherent madman a la Hunter S. Thompson. For me, a glimpse of the mind was a good thing and, perhaps, a salutary reminder not to believe the hype.

September 28, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I attending a joint reading by four Swedish crime writers a couple of years ago at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. I have been on the centre's mailing list since.

I thought you might like to know that James Ellroy is reading there next week.

September 29, 2009  
Blogger seana said...

Cool. I feel like I should get a world map and a bunch of pins to put in it.

Although he will be within shouting distance in mid-October, various obligations mean that I probably won't be able to report on his west coast visit.

September 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thank you for not pointing out the ludicrous grammatico-verbal error in my previous comment.

I did see that Ellroy was scheduled to appear some place that had a San or Santa in its name. I wasn't sure which part of California it was in, though. But you know that I will approve if you decide to shuffle those obligations and attend the reading.

September 30, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, and apropos of an earlier stage in this string, I found out tonight that someone I have known for years is allergic to gluten.

September 30, 2009  

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