Thursday, August 19, 2010
It occurred to me that in my post on writers James Ellroy and Elmore Leonard I forgot to include a sample of Ellroy's writing. Ill make up for that here with a couple of brief Ellroy interviews. He writes the way he talks, so this should give you an idea of what the writing's like.
Ellroy talks in short sentenses with short words. It's a very lean style. In the interviews he comes off as obsessive, which doesn't surprise me. I think all good literary stylists have compulsive disorders. They write whether they get paid for it or not. You have to write an awful. awful lot to get the kind of feel for words that they have.
The trick is to avoid getting seduced by your own beautiful words, and to never neglect the content. Good writing is always about something that's worth knowing.
YouTube has several videos where Ellroy talks about Elizabeth Short, the famous "Black Dahlia" whose corpse was found surgically cut in half in Hollywood in the forties. His own mother was murdered when Ellroy was a kid, some (not Ellroy) believe by the same killer. The two murders are always on Ellroy's mind. I'm surprised that Ellroy is able to keep focused on a subject he's spoken and written about so frequently through the years. Maybe this is another example of how you have to be an an obsessive compulsive in order to write well.
Maybe the tragic crimes gave him a nucleus around which he could grow a compulsion. Maybe the best writers need compulsions for fuel and deliberately set about to acquire and nurture them. Or maybe I'm trying to over explain something that's simple and doesn't need an explanation. I don't know. Anyway, I love the way Ellroy talks.
Posted by Eddie Fitzgerald at 12:55 AM