Monday, March 24, 2008

Book Review: David Goodis, The Moon in the Gutter (1953)

David Goodis is commonly ranked in the top tier of noir novelists, and The Moon in the Gutter is commonly ranked among his best work. One recent example: in The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction (2007), Barry Forshaw cites The Moon in the Gutter as his representative Goodis text in arguing that, of all the noir novelists, "Goodis comes the closest to the existential angst of Camus and Sartre." I wish I could see it, but I can't. The main thing I see in The Moon in the Gutter is bad writing. The lesser problem is that Goodis' prose is often painful to read--he strings together limp, cliché-ridden sentences as if he does not remember what his previous sentence was or have any idea what his next sentence will be. The greater problem is that his characters seem to behave as they do because they are in a noir novel and not for other discernible reasons. To Goodis' credit, he does take a valiant stab at noir profundity in the novel's last chapter, but the rest of the book is not there to back it up. In sum, a major disappointment. Grade: D+

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