The Washington Post suggests that Jim Thompson was the offspring of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Cornell Woolrich—their literary offspring wrote The Grifters, a novel that I arrived late to. I’m thankful that I was urged to read this book. It prompted various existential questions. Like, why do I keep doing this? After reading the book, I had to watch the film starring John Cusack, Annette Bening, and Angelica Huston. I must say too many of the lines just did not translate to screen. They felt rushed or botched all together. It was a bit disappointing.
Anyhow, Roy Dillon is one short con that I would like to date. I blush as I admit that I’d like to take-up with someone who is amoral (and that is a whole other animal). Thompson created a character that transcends the page. Dillon is sometimes antagonistic and mainly protagonist. I needed to know Dillon’s character. He makes a mockery out of being the victim. In his life there are winners, losers and they seem to hold equal importance in this game. Yes, Thompson reaffirms the idea that life is a hustle (whatever your profession) one short or long con at a time.
A former student, at Columbia, once said something of this nature to me. I wonder if she’s read this novel too. This all has me thinking about a certain mode of functioning. Why are so few programmed? See what I mean, the existential abounds. Thompson suggests that timing and turn of phrase can make. His female characters Moira Langtry and Lilly Dillon are emphatically bad. They make it look good. It’s dark and twisted. This book has been my perfect train companion. I’ve been able to see the beauty in the gritty side of Chicago.
But, it’s not all dark. Thompson artfully inserted an angel with Carol Rothberg’s character. How fitting, I suppose, because she is a nurse. A struggling nurse, implanted to care for Dillon and help Lilly by blocking Moira’s access. Rothberg is innocent. The sweetest little doe one could ever know. Whenever I encounter her, I feel like a high school girl of 15. I’m in uniform and I avert gazes. This is the simple beauty of Rothberg. She is an apparition of all things pure in an American text.
I have since read The Getaway, and I find Thompson honest and undisciplined. He is a writer that runs straight into just about everything I was taught to stay away from. Reading The Grifters made me look at things I don’t often want to see. It has made me reexamine those poems with shady corners and closets—am I saying what needs to be said? His cutting language is a beast. And it was like taking a trip to the darkside, to return to the ding of train bells.