Tuesday, August 12, 2008

31. A Little Yellow Dog by Walter Mosley

A Little Yellow Dog pictureI like Walter Mosley and grab his books when they are cheap (a quarter outside of Pulp Fiction in Vancouver) but I don't follow too closely or remember the exploits of his protagonist, Easy Rawlins.

In this one, he is trying to go straight, working as a custodian at a public school in LA. He comes in early and ends up having classroom sex with a sultry teacher who is in some kind of trouble. Easy has all kinds of romantic complications, but getting laid is not one of them. I'm never sure if this is supposed to reflect the genre and the culture or if he is just super attractive, but I never find these sex scenes that believable (though they are pretty enjoyable to read). The trouble expands, gets more complicated and obviously catches Easy. Bodies show up at the school. Suspicious cops and principals harrass and hover.

It's a quick, mostly enjoyable read. What I didn't enjoy so much is that characters kept coming in who were part of Easy Rawlin's great story arc and each one would get a page or two about everything that had happened to them up to that point. I don't mind that stuff so much but it kind of seemed a bit forced to me in this book.

In general, there is something unreal in Easy Rawlins' world. Mosley is supposed to be this authentic voice but I'm a bit suspicious. I like his world but I wonder if he is getting a bit distant from it's source. There is nothing wrong with that, because the characters are interesting and situations are rich, but it clashes a bit with expecations. I'm sort of talking around my complaint here and not being very direct. Is this a hard-boiled mystery? Is it about the black urban experience in the 60s? It's completely fair that it be about both, but somehow the combination of the elements from each works out to a whole that isn't entirely satisfying and seems somehow a bit unreal and thus distancing for the reader.


George LaCas said...

I came across your book-related blog by chance.

Personally, I steer toward the public library bookstores, and the book sales they have. I got an autographed Norman Mailer for a quarter.

OlmanFeelyus said...

Cool! Welcome aboard. We've got a little gang here all trying (and mostly failing) to do the 50 books thing. You can see the others up in my links to the left.

I'm a big fan of the library sale, but here in Quebec, the books tend to be french, of which I only read about one book a year or so (takes me way too long).

However, I love going to the library and borrowing books. Do that as often as possible and the english selection is not bad here. The library itself kicks so much ass.

Jason L said...

What year was this published? I'd be interested to know where it falls in the Easy time line. It could just be that hes just burning out ideas...

Nevermind, I did my own research. It's the 5th out of 11 Easy books that he's written. 1996.