I had a conversation over the weekend about whether certain genres need to be about particular things or whether they can be an aesthetic. And, as is common with discussion of genre boundaries, the discussion soon sent out a tendril into the field of literature vs. genre fiction. While the difference—if any—between literary and genre fiction is of interest to me, I was more intrigued by the question of whether the reverse of magical realism existed: a genre version of literature. So, I experimented with a pulp version of the opening of an American classic. I present it below, not to prove or disprove a hypothesis but in the hope it will amuse.
Pretty Boy Gat
My dad said before you call someone a crook or a flake you should remember life is hard if you ain’t on easy street.
He didn’t lay it out, but he was one of those guys who says more with a grunt than a whole class of professors can, so I figured an actual sentence meant this was the real stuff. So, I say live and let live. Which is how I’ve met plenty of adventure and a lot of heels. Of course, accepting life’s grand pageant don’t cut it with school bullies, so there were always claims I was up to something cos of how people would talk to me. Wasn’t even like I set out to be everyone’s pigeon roost. I tried tipping my hat over my eyes, staring down the horizon, or even cracking wise on something the moment I spotted a secret coming. And spotting them was easy, because there’s only a couple of problems you can find when you’re too fresh to dent a bar stool.
Course, now I’m shot of organised revision and free to find a better class of bully, I always hope that this time the story will be different. And fear that the times I do shunt some shmuck off track is the time I’ll miss something worth hearing because I’ve forgotten we don’t all start with the same hand.
Which makes me sound like the kind of guy your mother wants you to bring home. Sadly, my cuffs are as muddy as the next man’s. Whether your morals are diamonds or only paste only takes the right blow to break the setting.
When I moved back from Chicago last autumn, I had this dream I’d be free of the mayhem and the crooks. No more heart-to-hearts in seedy nightclubs. Only Gat, the man who gives his name to this book, would remain. Gat was everything that made my fists itch. If personality’s doing things well, then there was something flash about him. Some sense that called him home before the police had even decided to raid. Not that he was some flake or poseur, oiling through life without a care. He genuinely hoped for the best in a way not even soup-kitchen preachers do.
Gat turned out right in the end. It was the trouble that followed him like stink on a fish that took the sparkle out of my tolerance and left it twisted out of shape.