Thursday, November 8, 2007

Modern Library Top 100: #98 - The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain (1934)

A while back, Nick Hornby wrote an entire essay dedicated to his alarming realization that he had forgotten nearly everything he'd ever read.

My own experience is a lot like that, which is mostly why I started up with these updates on my novel progress. With rare exceptions--essentially these four books of my childhood, which I can probably still recite if pressed--I can't for the life of me remember what I read last week, let alone last year, as is the case with The Postman Always Rings Twice, a novella consumed last Christmas. So while I remember finding the experience ultimately pleasant, and I can tell you the overall plot with little difficulty (hardscrabble Californian seduces his boss's wife before killing him before getting a face full of karma), if you want details on the intricacies, you're barking up the wrong tree, mister (or madam, for you feminine types).

Still, one would think I'd've had a more lasting experience with it--great novels really ought to leave a mark, y'know? Not just some evanescent frisson of pleasure, like eating a chocolate chip cookie or something. And up to this point, all on the Modern Library list had left me with some overriding, irrepressible impression that I still vividly recall, even if it was just a slight case of abject loathing.

That doesn't make The Postman Always Rings Twice an inferior book, necessarily, just an inferior experience, and I'm not sure which one is more damning.

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