Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Of mice and those two-legged things

Oddly enough, for a writer, I resent paying top dollar for books. So my reading habits are fed from the shelves of thrift shops and second hand book shops. I’m rarely disappointed, some gem always surfaces.

Recently I was browsing a $2 bin and feeling discouraged by all the Sci-Fi and fantasy, not my preferred genre, or anyone else’s judging by the volume in that bin. But hidden among them was an excellent copy of Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flats.

Steinbeck is one of those authors I tend to acquire then give away to spread the delight of his writing. But since I have been back in Port Macquarie I have wished I had the man’s storytelling skills.

Never in my life have I encountered such a dense mix of druggies, alcoholics, habitual guests of the prison system and general low-lifes. The stories are hair raising, but unlike Steinbeck I can’t find any sympathetic handle for these characters.

The bright side is that I am receiving an education, if it was ever important for me to know the variations of bongs, cones and other drug paraphernalia. I don’t relish the culture of the needle, crowbar or whatever else they style them.

I don’t really need to hear about the repetitive abuse of both male and female serial arrestees. If they don’t like perverted treatment they receive then they should take steps to stay out of trouble.

Most of the stories tend to come back to the household rather than occur here, but there is still more action and unwelcome drop-ins than I’m comfortable with.

The flatmate has taken the not unsubtle hint and taken his consumption elsewhere, but there is always the fear of him bringing trouble back One day either the bogeymen or the cops are going to follow him home.

One telling tale came from a local defence lawyer: “All my clients are in jail for things they did not do!

  • They didn’t wipe their fingerprints.
  • They didn’t pick up the wallet they dropped at the scene.
  • They didn’t respond to the approaching sirens.
  • They did not take their ill-gotten gains somewhere other than their homes…

I toyed with the idea of a Steinbeck type chronicle, but amusing as some of the stories can be, I doubt these deadheads have the charm of his subjects; equally I know I don’t have anywhere his level of genius.

So I will be the mouse on this one. One day I might tell some of the story, one day when I’m far away from this sub-tropical ‘paradise’.


reality-based educator said...

Some sci-fi is pretty good. Check out China Mieville's Perdido Street Station if you can.

abi said...

Sure, Cartledge is no Steinbeck, but Steinbeck is no Cartledge, either. (Ok, he's dead, but still...). You've got to tell the stories in your own way. And you're not taking photos of these deadheads. It's up to you to make them appealing on some level.

Cartledge said...

"Some sci-fi is pretty good" RBE, you might be right, but I think I'm past it now alas. Current reading is Gulag Archipelago.

Abi, I don't know I'd dignify this lot with photos. I still have problems finding any redeeming features of this crowd. Still, it is a waste of good stories.

Praguetwin said...

They don't have to be redeeming. Just tell the stories! I'm all ears.

Anonymous said...

Never in my life have I encountered such a dense mix of druggies, alcoholics, habitual guests of the prison system and general low-lifes.

Have you ever read any Charles Bukowski? A genius (IMHO), though not recognized as one in his time.

Quite a coincidence that you and I are both reading Gulag Archipelago at the same time.

Cartledge said...

kvatch - Gulag is the hardest read I've ever encountered. I admit I expected a ripping yard, of the Solzhenitsyn variety, not a hard and sordid history. Brilliant writer but I have to intersperse with some pulp.
I'll go look for Charles Bukowski.
Meantime I'll post a pull down of my notes on Port in a few days. The concept is starting to form in my head, if not quite the voice yet.