Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Review: More Than Somewhat

More Than Somewhat
More Than Somewhat by Damon Runyon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read this book several times, as my parents had a copy. This re-read was initially because I was writing a story in the style of Runyon and wanted to get it right, but I ended up finishing the volume because I was enjoying the stories.

The way a Runyon story generally goes is this: the unnamed (and unreliable) narrator meets up with some shady characters, and finds out about a way in which someone else has been mistreated. In the end, though, someone, often not the person you'd expect, does the right thing, to the comfort of the good and the discomfort of the heartless.

It's not just a formula, though. The situations are as varied as the slang, and the characters as vivid as their nicknames. Everything takes place in a relentless present tense, including the dialog.

Because this is low life around Broadway in the 1930s, there is considerable casual sexism and indeed racism, though generally the "dolls" (women) who are mistreated by men end up at least getting avenged, if not avenging themselves. Justice, however rough, is generally served. There's a strong sense, though, that tragedy is an everyday thing for the varied characters, and that they seldom expect any better.

All in all, a bittersweet mixture of justice and injustice, tragedy and comedy, told in a distinctive and inimitable style.

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