The closest thing I came to that was Ms. Musing's comments on my post and Dorr's post on it. And then there was the email from one of those friends of mine who does not comment on my blog but will email a response to me when I write about familiar books and authors. That email read as follows:
Too bad you didn't like the Woolrich. I've read a smattering of his books, and no one does anxiety like him. Of course, he knew nothing about women. Look up his bio: he lived a reclusive life with his mother in a hotel room, for God's sake. It's all in the style, sugar: you think Chandler's plots make any sense? The best way to read him is with a bottle of scotch and a headcold.
So, a million thoughts ran through my brain after reading this email, not the least of which was, "Maybe I ought to look up a little something about the author and the book before writing my posts." But no. I've told everyone before why I don't do that. I want to write about books the same way I want to read them: knowing absolutely nothing. When I decide to read a book, I try not to read too many reviews, and I will not read anything that warns that it contains spoilers. In fact, I get very annoyed if anyone (book reviewer, blogger, well-meaning friend...) tells me too much about a book I have decided to read. Call me independent, but I want to draw my own conclusions. When I write and talk about a book, I want what I write to be pure, simple, gut reaction. I do not want it to be influenced by knowing too much about the author or how the book was received by the public or by critics. I was not an English major. Literary analysis is not my thing. I just happen to be someone who loves to read and who responds to books on a visceral level.
Then again, I also happen to be someone whose parents ought to have named her Insecurity (a very pretty name, no?). That means I can easily be found splashing around in waves of doubt, wondering if my instincts and gut reactions are way off base. I mean, if Woolrich is someone who obviously knew nothing about women, then it stands to reason that he was not trying to write a real character here. He must have, as Ms. Musings mused, been digging at something much deeper. I gave this book far too superficial a reading. I should not have been expecting this character to be the least bit believable. That was not her purpose. Her purpose was to give us far bigger truths than I'd given her credit for understanding.
But then, naturally, the piece of me who is always off partying with movie stars and other well-known figures and never has much time to stop back in at home to remind the others hanging out in my brain that she is a member of the family, and who resents the fact that her bedroom is now a huge walk-in closet, in other words, Ms. Secure as Fort Knox, decides to come home. She takes one look at the thoughts strewn all over my brain and decides they need to be kicked around some. Suddenly, some new thoughts begin to emerge. One of these is the oh-so-obvious,
"If Woolrich knew nothing about women, then why on earth did he decide to make a woman the main protagonist of his tale and proceed to tell the whole thing from her point of view?"
I mean, good question, right? I am a writer. No matter what sort of point I am trying to make, there is no way on earth I would decide that I need to make it using the voice of a gay, sixteen-year-old Brazilian boy. I mean, I know absolutely nothing about being a gay, sixteen-year-old Brazilian boy. How could I possibly write such a work? My ego would have to be far larger than it is for me to do decide to do that.
I stick to my guns, then. I don't mind an absurd plot if it's being carried out by real characters, characters that not only do things that make sense, but characters with whom I could have a conversation without wondering if they are some sort of visitors from another planet pretending to be Earthlings. I do not, however, want an absurd plot that becomes insanely absurd because the characters are not the least bit believable. Dorr was correct to point out that I was probably wrong to state that women aren't likely to stand by their men in such a way. It's true; some do (I read Wally Lamb's edited collection of stories written by women in prison only to discover that almost all of them were in prison because they happened to be accomplices to crimes that were actually committed by lovers), so it's believable that Alberta seemed to be willing to do anything for her husband. It's believable that a woman might break the law in order to prove her husband's innocence. However, it is not believable that a woman would meet a very creepy doctor; decide to come back to his place at night, all alone with no protection (especially since she already suspected he could be a murderer before she met him); and follow him into his unlit house. Maybe young women on other planets do such things, but certainly not women living in New York City (in any era). Like the idiot girls in Michael and Jason Take Freddy's Nightmare, who hear an odd noise and decide to go down to the basement to see what it is, instead of leaving the house as fast as their beautiful long legs can carry them, she lost all credibility at that point. That means I lost my interest (which is okay when watching a slasher movie, because there will always be some scene to jolt the interest back -- like those unbelievable girls being stabbed to death by an unbelievable masked mad man everyone was sure was dead, while the one character who will survive has been smart enough to get out of the house and is busy trying to start the car with the engine that seems to have died -- but is not okay when reading a book).
If Woolrich wanted to encourage me to explore some deeper issues, he should have done so by giving me characters who made sense. That means, since he doesn't seem to have known anything about women, he should have given me a man who was trying to prove his wife's innocence. Now, that might have been both an interesting philosophical exploration and a believable book. And if he weren't trying to do that, if all he was trying to do was give me a fun, thrilling yarn, well, then, he failed miserably. However, I do still think that the story, if in the hands of the right writers, directors, and producers (a creepy doctor who follows her instead of her coming to his place, anyone?) could have been improved tremendously and made into a great movie. If I ever get around to watching the movie, I'll let you know.