Bookshots: 'Sweet Nothing' By Richard Lange
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Award winning L.A. author of Angel Baby, This Wicked World, and Dead Boys, Richard Lange.
Plot in a box:
It’s a short story collection, so the plots are myriad.
Invent a new title for this book:
We’ll All Be Shitting In The Street: Stories
Read this if you like:
Anything by Raymond Carver, Jerry Stahl, Dan Fante.
Meet the book’s lead(s):
See ‘Plot in a Box’ for the answer to this.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
See ‘Meet the Book’s lead(s)’ and ‘Plot in a box’. But if a movie was made of Sweet Nothing it would be a huge ensemble piece ala Robert Altman’s masterful adaptation of the stories of Raymond Carver, Short Cuts.
Setting: Would you want to live there?
Almost all of the stories in the collection take place in Los Angeles, so you betcha.
What was your favorite sentence?
… I eat some ice cream and tell a funny story about Eve, but what I really wanted to talk about is what happened on my way to work this morning, that guy taking a shit in front of me.
I was waiting at a long red light, and a bum squatted on the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street, dropped his pants, and let go. I tried to turn my head but couldn’t. It was as if a bully had grabbed the back of my neck and was making me watch. I want to talk about how seeing that made me feel. Like everything was about to fall apart. Like pretty soon we’d all be shitting in the street.
Ah, L.A. stories … I just love ‘em. In my opinion, if you’re going to write a gritty story of lowdown life, there isn’t any city better suited than Los Angeles. The mishmash of cultures, the smog, the heat, the marshy stink of the pacific ocean mixing with it all and creating this primordial throng of cancerous humanity.
Yeah, I’m being a bit dramatic in my description of Los Angeles, because when it comes right down to it, the real world L.A. is just like any massive city, and is actually pretty boring in a rundown strip mall kind of way. At least until you start delving into the individual stories of neighborhoods going to pot because of gang violence, or of a security guard ex-con who lives in a flop house, or of a married middle-class speech writer being blackmailed by a woman he had a one night stand with, and may or may not have gotten pregnant.
These citizens of L.A. are Lange’s bread and butter, and he drafts them with so much care and precision that they become just as real as your next door neighbor or Carol from the accounting department at your job. Lange knows how to inhabit the skin of his protagonists and breathe life and vitality into them with his minimalist prose.
Now, if you’re expecting a straight forward crime fiction collection, Sweet Nothing doesn’t exactly occupy that realm. Sure there’s a couple of stories that have a hardboiled sheen, but Sweet Nothing has more of a What We Talk About When We Talk About Love vibe going for it as opposed to a Crimes in Southern Indiana kind of thing. It’s dark and gritty, but there’s a spark of life and light and a deadpan sense of humor that stops the stories of Sweet Nothing from going full dark.
Overall, Sweet Nothing is an intense, darkly funny collection from a writer who is working at peak form. Highly recommended.
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