Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In Praise of Walter Mosley

I answered the phone the other day.


"Walter Mosley!"

Now, unfortunately, it was not the man himself on the other end of the line introducing himself. It was, in fact, Harry, the lead singer of my band. Harry's a voracious reader and his tastes and mine overlap in several areas. One of those areas is, indeed, the great Walter Mosley.

We ended up having a long conversation about writers, genres, styles and tastes, what we considered good, bad and ugly.

Inspired by the conversation, I borrowed another Mosley book from my local library. I'm about halfway through it, and I must say that I am once again amazed. For me, I think Mosley is only shaded by Elmore Leonard as a conversational writer. By that, I mean a writer who makes you feel like they're just speaking the words straight to you, unweighted and pure. The emotion is slickly inferred by the reader, rather than having to be implied by the writer.

There was a passage, probably about a page long, in the book I'm reading ("Diablerie"). It felt, at the moment of reading, as if it might be the finest page of writing I'd ever read. But as I read it, I realised it was fairly simple in its nature. What made it so powerful, so intense, was everything that had led the characters to that point. It was the detached nature of the main character, the short history of events chronicled in the story, and the overlap of those two facets to fill in the backstory.

In short, it was the foundation. The pedestal that raised the amazing artwork high enough that it could be seen.

In many cultures, people pay appropriate honour to the life of the fish they catch, or the beast they kill. They give praise to their deities for the providence, and they waste nothing.

Walter Mosley seems to capture the same spirit in his writing. He honours the life of his words and his story.

He wastes nothing.


T. Harrison said...

If you like Diablerie, you should definitely try Killing Johnny Fry, if you haven't read it already. One of my favorite books:)

Willsin Rowe said...

I've not read that one. Thank you for the tip.

The only bad part of reading writing this that it makes me feel like an amateur all over again!