Weetzie Bat

Um, wow.

Let’s talk about the style. The psychedelic flow of Richard Brautigan with flashes of the journalistic precision of Raymond Chandler.

I’m betting you don’t buy the Chandler connection. From the first page of The Big Sleep, listen to the rhythm, the excess of observation, all from the viewpoint of the main character:

I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with blue clocks on them. […] The main hall of the Sternwood place was two stories high. Over the entrance doors, which would have let in a troop of Indian elephants, there was a broad stained-glass panel showing a knight in dark armor rescuing a lady who was tied to a tree and didn’t have any clothes on but some long and convenient hair.

I love the black wool socks with blue clocks.

From the first page of Weetzie Bat:

They didn’t care that Marilyn’s prints were practically in their back yard at Graumann’s; that you could buy tomahawks and plastic palm tree wallets at Farmer’s Market, and the wildest cheapest cheese and bean and hot dog and pastrami burritos at Oki Dogs; that the waitresses wore skates at the Jetson-style Tiny Naylor’s; that there was a fountain that turned tropical soda-pop colors, and a canyon where Jim Morrison and Houdini used to live, and all-night potato knishes at Canter’s, and not too far away was Venice, with columns, and canals, even, like the real Venice but maybe cooler because of the surfers.

None of these facts are necessary to the plot—so much for your Aristotelian parsimony—but every one of these details is important to the main character. The person and the details together nail down the time and place.

Here is a random page that sounds like Brautigan:

My Secret Agent Lover Man had driven her to the beach on the back of his motorcycle and pulled a bottle of pink champagne out of his trench coat. They were sitting on the sand by the sea. My Secret Agent Lover Man uncorked the champagne and handed the bottle to Weetzie. He got out his camera and filmed her taking a swig.

Really, it fell open to that page. Page 36. That hypnotic mix of intensity and distance. The book is even short like a Brautigan novel, only 85 pages.

I have no idea why this is shelved in young adult, except that it is really short and high school is mentioned in the opening sentence.

Go read it. Your library is sure to have it and you can read it in an hour or less.

PS: Right after I posted this, I searched for Francesca Lia Block, the author. I’m not alone in noticing the similarity to Raymond Chandler. Wikipedia has this:

One New York Times Book Review critic said, “Block writes about the real Los Angeles better than anyone since Raymond Chandler.”


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