Tuesday, June 10, 2008

USED BOOKS: The Gates of Eden


The Gates of Eden
stories by Ethan Coen (Delta)

A lifetime of reading means a lot of cheap paperbacks with busted spines that one must eventually take to the used book store, the idea being to clear space in both one's apartment and in one's head. One is moving out and moving on, but not without a summation of sorts of a few plot convolutions and the writers who typed them. Ethan Coen likes to take the convolutions one has left at the curb and smash to bits with a heavy, wicked hammer. His collection of short fiction,The Gates Of Eden, offers this collection of odd-lug short stories, collected from various magazines from where they've been published previously. Uneven, as with any collection, though there are some nice slices of dialogue, and some potent descriptive writing, but as a film maker, Coen's descriptions of things seem like film treatments at best, hurried and breathless, like the film pitches we witnessed in The Player, and our laughs are too dependent on our knowledge, even reference, of tired genre forms. But "Hector Berlioz, Private Investigator" is a Philip Marlow/ Sam Spade send up that results in some honest hoots, and 'Destiny" is a particularly vicious laugh at the boxing trade, with a Coenesque hero eating fists over and over as a direct result of his own miserably rationalized choices.