I just started readingThe Turnaround by George Pelecanos. George is one of the best writers in the US and A right now. He’s often damned with faint praise “he’s good for a mystery writer.” That drives me batshit for two reasons:
First, Pelecanos writes hard boiled crime fiction, not polite mysteries wherein the butler is the murderer.
Second, some of my favorite American authors write crime fiction: Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and James Lee Burke spring instantly to mind. All are great literary stylists who work the dark side of the street.
It’s patronizing to say “so and so is good for their genre.” I’d rather read Pelecanos than most purveyors of literary fiction any day. Almost as importantly, George brought the word malaka to a broader audience in Season Two ofThe Wire and for that I’m eternally grateful.
I didn’t start this post to proclaim my admiration of George Pelacanos’ work but to tell a story about my late father. He was a first generation American born to Greek immigrant parents, the sort of person who Lindsey Graham wants to deny citizenship to in the future. Bad Lindsey: your malakatude is showing. Anyway, my father was a World War II veteran and lifelong Republican but of the type that no longer exists: a moderate Eisenhower Republican. He was the kind of conservative who preferred private charities to government programs but when push came to shove, he thought people in need should be given a helping hand. The only hand proffered by conservatives nowadays comes in the form of a fist. And knuckle sandwiches aren’t nutritious.
Back to ethnic pride. My father avidly followed the careers of successful Greek Americans and loved talking about them. He had a deep and booming voice, which Dr. A loves imitating. Whenever the subject arose he’d say, for example: “Elia Kazan is Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.” I cannot recall how many times he used the same formulation but I heard it hundreds of times; especially as he aged. It was always rather endearing, less endearing was his insistence that he was the world’s foremost authority on all Greek Americans.
I’ll never forget a bizarre argument we had over Elia Kazan’s late cinematic masterpiece America, America. My dad insisted that it was an autobiographical film and I made the mistake of correcting him. Not only had I seen the movie and he hadn’t but I had just finished reading Kazan’s memoirs. I informed him that the main character was based on Kazan’s uncle and that Elia had been born in America. We went round and round on that one until I relented and reverted to surly teendom and said: “Whatever.” My father always had to be right even when he didn’t have a clue; particularly when his ethic group was involved. So it goes.
George Pelecanos is Greek. He’s doing very well, you know.
p>Cross-posted at Adrastos.