Friday, May 31, 2013

Sailor's Holiday

by Barry Gifford

one sweaty afternoon in ensenada, jim thompson met flannery o'connor. the mutual attraction was immediate; they quickly retired to a local flophouse to bang it out. nine months later, a child was born: barry gifford. young barry inherited many of his parents' traits: from his prickly mom - a love of southern conversation and southern grotesquerie; from his laconic dad - a deep interest in how trashy, often deeply amoral sorts can get themselves involved with some heavy business. but the boy was also his own man, and instead of espousing the moralism of his mama or the nihilism of his daddy, he found his own path: to vividly illustrate the lives of low-lifes... but to stop just short of turning them into toxic aliens. give them healthy, sex-positive attitudes; give them amusingly quirky conversational tics! maybe even give them a happy ending. the world is scary and deadly - but it can be fun too!

the novel is a continuation of the adventures of Sailor and Lula, perhaps most famous as the protagonists of david lynch's bizarre extravaganza Wild at Heart. Sailor's Holiday is actually a collection of four interrelated novellas. despite how strong the violence and sadism can occasionally get, they are all rather lightweight and charming. they also introduce one of my new favorite characters, Sailor and Lula's sweet, fearless son - Pace Ripley. he's great. his character is central in two of the stories, once at around age 10 and then at age 15. this kid is a marvel under pressure, despite being involved in some sordid doings and being kidnapped two times by two different psychos. he keeps both his wits and his deadpan sensibility about him at all times. when we last hear of him, he is leading himalayan treks in nepal. despite his penchant for underage smoking and drinking, this is a son i'd be delighted to have.

"59° and Raining": the further adventures of scary-hot Perdita Durango and her new boyfriend Romeo Delarosa, as they embark on a bloody adventure full of kidnapping, ritual sacrifice, and placenta smuggling. this is the basis of the horrific film Dance with the Devil.

"Sailor's Holiday": Lula is busy raising little Pace and trying to find herself. Sailor finally gets out of jail. poor Pace gets kidnapped. hi-jinks ensue.

"Sultans of Africa": Pace starts hanging out with the sketchy Rattler twins. Sailor is finding his job at a gator repellent factory to be a mite challenging. Lula gets slightly involved in the revivalism of Reverend Goodin Plenty. poor Pace gets kidnapped again.

"Consuelo's Kiss": Sailor and Lula take a road trip to celebrate Sailor's 50th birthday. in a parallel plot, intrepid jailbait Consuelo Whynot takes a road trip to visit her mystic lover Venus. rumination and bloodshed follow.

it is almost unimportant to give details of the novellas themselves. the main thing about gifford's writing is that it is digressive. have you ever seen the truffaut film Shoot The Piano Player? in the beginning, the protagonist comes across a nice fellow who proceeds to tell his interesting but totally random story of love lost. random guy disappears and has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of the movie. well, the same thing goes for this novel. there are plots and central characters, sure, but on every page we mainly read the stories, gossip, tidbits, facts, and effluvia of other characters, their lives and the way those lives ended. Sailor's Holiday is completely digressive in its storytelling. although the writing style is stripped-down, it is not tightly paced by any means. the best way i can describe the experience is to say that it is like sitting on a porch drinking beers on a hot day with old friends or interesting new acquaintances, shooting the shit and telling stories about all the crazy people we've known and the crazy stories we've heard, tales full of gallows humor, caricature, sex, blood, death, marriage, family, life. a pleasant way to spend an afternoon!

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