Monday, July 1, 2013

DOUBLE, DOUBLE: The Fates, Addiction, Double Endemity, and Martha Grimes

A little rum will get this affair on its feet.

DOUBLE, DOUBLE: A DUAL MEMOIR OF ALCOHOLISM by Martha Grimes, the justly acclaimed author of murder mystery novels and her son, Ken Grimes.  The doubles in the title can be seen as allusions to the dual narrative of the text, to a double shot, to the chant of the Wyrd Sisters in MacBeth, or to the book and film, Double Endemity.  It is cleverly accomplished, as you shall see from the quotes below.
Double, double, toil and trouble.

Over at Peter Rozovsky's blog (link), he hosted a discussion seeking to define "noir," but the definitions there differ.

True noir, it seems to me, is exemplified especially by MacBeth, concerning power addicts and the temptations of the fates.  These too, are noir, for the stories are of walking shadows caught up in the maze of their addictions, poor players who strut and fret for their entire hour upon the stage, lives of desperation, the sound and the fury.

These are noir because they show the addict's journey into the blackness.

Some people feel that noir is Marxist or at least left-wing and some leftists and buddhists say that it reflects actual life in this material vale.  Not just addictions to money and power, but to such things as causes, soap operas, guns, alcohol, tobacco, promiscuous sex, and drugs.

Martha Grimes says this in her chapter entitled "Double Double Indemnity":

"This, mind you, is what's called "alcoholic" or"addictive thinking."  The whole approach to drinking is crazily mazelike.  You turn left, you turn right, you go along, you go back.'

"Now you--standing outside the maze, having heaps of laughter at the idiot in there who can't find his way out--please note:  The idiot in there doesn't know it's a maze; he thinks this is the Capital Beltway or some other annoying, clogged-up, circular multilaner, but for all of that minor annoyance, it's the only way he can travel.  This kind of thinking can also be called 'denial.'  There are exits from the Beltway, clearly marked; there's an exit from the maze unmarked.  Much harder to negotiate.'

"So, you, standing outside at the exit, yell, "It's over here, stupid.'

"But for the addict lost in the addiction, where's here? . . ."

"Another member of our group is leaving.  He's standing before us, giving reasons for his decision to stop coming to the clinic. . .He says he has his drinking under control now.'

Straight down the line, Walter.

That's more or less what I want to say to him.  It's what Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck) says to Walter (Fred MacMurray) in that great film noir Double Indemnity.'

In any well-constructed mystery, there is a sense of inevitability. . .The movie begins with a gorgeous romance into which is interjected something chancy and dangerous, thereby making the romance even more glamorous.  Then they do the dangerous thing together, and it's all downhill from there.'

"I've watched Double Indemnity so many times that I think it's leaking out of my pores as slowly as my last drink.  It's such a beautiful piece of chiaroscuro; the lighting should be distilled and drunk neat.  There's the scene at the end where she's sitting in her living room, waiting for him with a gun; his shadow is thrown on the wall as he stands in the doorway with a gun. . .'

Straight down the line, baby.
Straight down the line.

"After that earlier dialogue, you think, Oh, God, now it's come down to this.  And this is where I see our own Walter, announcing he's quiting.'

The way in which Double Indemnity moves along the track to its inescapable end is the way this fellow will end.  He can handle his drinking, he says.  He's got a plan.  Say, drinking only on weekends.  It doesn't matter.  What he's thinking about now is the taste of that first drink. . ."

"He's Walter.  The bottle's Phyllis.  They're a perfect fit.  The bottle is alive with solace and the fulfillment of desire.  But the thirst is unquenchable.  There is no stop on this train ride until you're over the rail and onto the track, like Phyllis's husband."


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  2. Written by two highly intelligent people who have an unusual penchant for frank self-examination, DOUBLE DOUBLE could offer others a rational trail out of the fog of alcoholism. Though classified as a memoir, it could also be a manual --- and one suspects that it was written, at least in part, with that in mind.

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