Friday, March 9, 2012

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Book Review

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

I didn't really know what I was getting into when I picked this book up. I had heard of the title. I knew it had been around a long time.

And then I started poking around. This appears to be the epitome of the crime novel genre. And quite risque in its time.

I needed to know more. I had to read this.

The Postman Always Rings Twice

I was intrigued by this very small novel. I usually seem to gravitate to the longer, more involved novels. Not that I dislike short novels, I just seem to get drawn into the longer ones. Well, the good, longer ones.

Somewhere in the back of my head, I hear a voice nagging me with, "If it is that short, can it be any good?"

Yes, it can.

Here is the proof.

The author doesn't spend a lot of time on setting or back story. There's just enough information right away to know that we are in southern California. Outside of that, this story doesn't need much more than what is presented during the telling.

Our plot revolves around human desires, regardless of societal expectations or moral obligations. Lust, greed, murder, redemption, remorse are all here. They don't ever get the chance to get gushy or mushy or overdone, due the economy of words. I can easily see how movie adaptations can expand and interpret the work in different ways and end up with quite varied results. This isn't so much as "open to interpretation" as it is "fill in the details and specifics with as much as you want".

How active is your imagination?

As brief as this novel is, everything we need is there. We immediately get the sense of the characters without much more than a little dialogue. We are given the barest sketches of them and yet we feel like we know them. What drives them. What they are willing to do to get what they want. What they are willing to sacrifice. All that in just the briefest of sketches. Amazing.

Crime novel, this is. And we see that crime is not just reserved for the low-lying, moral-lacking drifters of the world, but also envelopes the echelons of our legal system. Crime is available to all.

The title is interesting, if and of itself. It does not appear anywhere in the text of the novel. This usually annoys me. Sends me into fits. When I finished this novel not having read any reference to a postman or the ringing of anything, I did not have a fit. Surprising. I found myself thinking about it and instantly I was satisfied with my conclusions.

Think metaphors. Think symbols. Think trope.

Things happen twice in the novel. Several things happen twice. Plans. Conks on a head. Thwarted plans. Twists. Double-crossings. Murders?

This time I liked the title, even if it never literally or figuratively appears in the text. I liked the symbolization. I liked the exaggerated mundaneness of the title, contrasting with the extreme amorality of the double actions in the novel.

I have never liked a non-existent title before. Ever. This is monumental. I have seen the light.

I was very impressed with this novel. The portrayal is so succinct and yet so vivid. This is a masterpiece.

Go enjoy it!

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