The Blonde on the Street Corner by David Goodis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Goodis is well-known for his many crime noirs from the 1950s. This 1954 Lion paperback original set in 1936 Philadelphia is not one of those. Instead it is a portrait of depression-era ennui. Although a basically plot-less novel (the point) about four 30-ish men who live with their parents and spend most of their time standing around on street corners, it nonetheless crackles with energy in between long stretches of flat meaningless dialog. In response to shouts from his sister to get a job you lazy bum, Ralph instead descends into a three-page think that is a stunning repudiation of the American Dream, as if to say, if that's all you got, I'll stand around on a street corner and do nothing, thank you very much. Parsed in this way, we have an uneven novel, with brilliant flashes of literary realism. Goodis was well-read and well-educated and knew exactly what he was doing here and you wouldn't be far off making the connections with Kafka and Beckett or noticing the obvious homage to West's Miss Lonelyhearts. The real star of the novel is Lenore, the blonde on the street corner, who starts and ends this story by getting what she wants, "the kind of action that knocks me out, puts me on a roller coaster going haywire." Ralph gives it to her "like a beast" and that's where their dreams go to die.
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