Friday, September 24, 2010

Back to the gym, book in hand

This evening I had nothing better to do, so I went to the gym. Actually, that's not quite right: there were lots of things I could have done that were better than going to the gym.

I could have gone to Triple O's and eaten a burger. I could have read some improving literature. I could have contemplated eternal truths or tried to improve the lot of the poor and starving on this earth.

But I'd already been to Triple O's for lunch, and though I walked all the way there and all the way back, that ten minutes of exercise was not likely to have burned off however many calories a burger and fries contains.

And I could have read some improving literature, but I had bought and devoured Viz while I was devouring my burger, so that didn't seem like the right thing to do either.

So I went to the gym, but as a compromise I tried reading Blood's A Rover while working out. This is easy to do on an exercise bike, precarious on a Stairmaster, and downright impossible on a rowing machine.

Well, I suppose if I could hire a manservant to hold the book before my face as I slid back and forth, I might have stood a chance of absorbing a few sentences, but lacking a convenient factotum I was reduced to just rowing for twenty minutes in the cultural desert of California Fitness.

And as you discover after a while, rowing in a desert gets you nowhere.

Still, that was 500 calories expunged, and 40 more pages of Ellroy ingested. Sometimes I worry that I'm missing a nuance here or there, but it's a six-hundred page book - if you stopped for every leitmotif, you'd never finish.

That is, if there's nuances - but they'd be hard to find in the gatling-gun delivery of the plot.
He left work. He hit the gym. Idiot. He sweat hard, grokking the sixties jive. The radio spurted dead noise. He sweat. Join the dots. Someone had a file - Hoover? Hughes? He skimmed, sweat, rode the tram. A couple of Chinese people near him. The whole place, a stone-cold Chinatown. He got the fear. Sweat. Clammy back. He popped four benzedrine and -
See? Five minutes without a chance to draw breath or use an adverb, and I'm contemplating illegal stimulants and probably about to riff on a couple of paragraphs of horribly racist Sixties attitudes. That's the risk with reading Ellroy - it's all very exciting at the time, and then all of a sudden you wake up six weeks later in a seersucker suit, stinking of cheap cigarettes and incapable of forming sentences with subordinate clauses and no horrifying rebarbative attitudes.

400 pages to go.


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