Sunday, September 2, 2007

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #98

Title: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Author: James M. Cain
Judgin' the Book By Its Cover: Boooooo! If your favorite kind of book cover is one which abstractly depicts a man grabbing a woman's, um, bosom, then you're in for a treat! If not, well, you're probably out of luck...

Thoughts: Although I've never read any of Cain's novels, I've seen the film adaptations of two of his most popular works, Mildred Pierce and Double Indemnity (two words: Billy Wilder), and like both movies, especially the latter. I'm a big fan of film noir and also of the hard-boiled crime fiction of the '30's and '40's, especially anything by Raymond Chandler (who doesn't appear on this list-- he got robbed!) or Dashiell Hammett, so I was pretty psyched to see this on the list. However, this book was much darker than anything I've read by the two previously-mentioned gents, and a bit dirtier. The narrator, Frank Chambers, is no Philip Marlowe-- he's a sleazeball with no principles and none of the dry wit that characterizes Chandler's hero. Moreover, the connection between violence and sex in the book is truly unsettling-- Frank and the femme fatale seem drawn to each other by their mutual love of violence. One thing that sets the novel apart from others in its genre is the use of a true workingman's voice-- Frank isn't a super-articulate wisecracker, and he even uses poor grammar (in a believable way). This added realism makes the story somehow more disturbing-- it's as if someone you know is talking about a murder they committed. Overall, the book is a visceral pageturner, but it's really short and is entertaining in its own way, so probably worth a quick read.

Down= 3
To Go= 97

1 comment:

KristyWes said...

Dude, I'm so impressed with your progress! I'm cheering you all the way to #1.

I liked Maltese Falcon, so maybe i'll add #98 to my list to read. It's short, you say? Even better.