Four Complete Novels (James M. Cain) pdf, epub, doc

Four Complete Novels ePub and PDF Available
Of the four novels in this hardback edition (of which I've read two and found them wonderful), I most recently read The Serenade. I was made curious to read it a couple of months ago from a stray reference I came across in Thomas Mann's diary from the year 1939, when he was in exile and in residence at Princeton. He received Cain's book in the mail, looked through it after lunch, and then noted: "Serenade is attractive." I think what he meant was: "Serenade is absolutely fantastic, and I'm going to base Dr. Faustus on it." (Please note: I haven't read Dr. Faustus yet, so I'm just making a mis-educated guess here. . . .)

The story is about a washed-up opera singer, John Howard Sharp, who, after an illustrious career in Europe and a mysterious withdrawal fromthe musical world at the height of his celebrity, is playing guitar in a jazz band in Mexico City and is otherwise a drunk. He falls in love with a prostitute (named Juana, so they have the same name), gets his voice back in an amazing-and violent-scene in which the two lovers, on a road trip, are stranded in a tiny country church during a massive flood and rainstorm. He brings Juana to Los Angeles, breaks back into singing by bursting on stage at a public opera concert and improvising his way through a piece. By the end of the night he has a movie contract and within weeks he is churning out movies and recordings. Eventually they move to NYC where Sharp becomes the reigning singer at the Metropolitan Opera. There is this incredible sense of competence, expertise and easy confidence in this character, and the "hard-boiled" language of Cain is magically capable of describing not only the drunken low life of Mexico City, but also the finest and most technical nuances of musical performance and the most intricate scheming and bullshitting of the Hollywood studio system.

The fame is interrupted when a famous conductor returns from Europe and competes for Sharp's professional attention, at the same time stalking him and Juana, now learning English. This twist in the story makes explicit the vague and doom-laden relations between sexuality and artistic performance, both between men and between a man and a woman. Not just the "high-art" stuff, but also the frank treatment of homosexuality make this a very untypical hard-boiled story. The book, like most of Cain's, doesn't end well for lovers (of any kind). Doom and downfall wash over everyone and in the end; those moments of sexual union, artistic beauty, and professional success are revealed to be what you hoped they weren't all along: deceptions, brief respites from a more powerful, merciless fate.

Really stunning writing, such rhythm and density that every gesture, every action, every description, every line of dialogue is chiseled, heavy with meaning and forbodeing, yet light and alive, for a little while at least.

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Book info

  • Author:
  • Publisher:Random House Value Publishing
  • File: 1.8 Mb
  • Ganre: Mystery
  • Release: 01.12.1988
  • ISBN: 9780517362495
  • Pages 651
  • Rating: 4.42 (12 votes)

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