August 18th, 2019

Winter Sunlight

Still reading the Matt Scudder series ...

... and I didn't sign up for all these feels!

I remember enjoying these books but I really didn't remember how slow and introspective they are, let alone how much of any given book is a full-on punch in the feelings. Actually, I think what they're reminding me of the most right now is the Vlad Taltos books, maybe because I just read those. But also, they're both books in the action/mystery genre which are also slow-paced meditations on being a decent person in an imperfect world, both with protagonists who are flawed and a little bit criminal, who are striving mostly for minimizing the harm they do, rather than being good. (And who somehow stumble into "decent" by accident anyway.)

My previous times reading this series were haphazard and out of order; I read various books off and on throughout my teens and early 20s, but I don't think I've ever actually sat down and read them through in order (well, okay, this time around, I skipped a couple of the 1970s books because the library didn't have all of them) and this is bringing me a fresh appreciation of how these books have one of those arcs where the protagonist starts out miserable and alone, and slowly accretes a circle of loyal people around him. And I guess we all know how much of a sucker I am for that.

I can't get over how much I love Matt. It's one of those "despite, or even because of his flaws" kinds of things, because in some ways he's terrible (and I don't mean the drinking, I'm really more thinking of things like his corruption and cheating and the like), but he kind of just sneaks past all your defenses and dodges in there and is just so goddamn decent that you can't not just want everything to work out for him.

I love how characters from previous books tend to come back in later books, and I also love how the author has a real knack for capturing real-feeling little emotional moments -- the only specific example I can think of off the top of my head is that thing where you meet someone and sometimes you just click, for no reason either of you can figure out, but there are actually a lot of those types of things in these books, those oddly specific and yet strikingly relatable moments that make you go, "Yes, that feel! I know that feel. I've had that one."

It's also one of those series that makes you feel like this is a world you want to inhabit and people you want to hang around with, even when some of them are terrible, and terrible things are happening. You know, there are some series I've noped out of after a book or two because I found the narrative POV simply unpleasant. And then there are series that really make you feel the author's affection for all the characters, and for people in general, no matter what kind of people they are. This is one of those. There are definitely places where it stumbles, and things I'm uncomfortable with. But also, there are things like ... nearly everyone that Matt is around is openly racist and often sexist and other *ists, but it's interesting to me how even going back to the earliest books, Matt never says those things; the author doesn't put those words in the narrator's mouth or the book's narrative voice, and it's pretty clear, even early on, that Matt is comfortable, and unapologetically so, about associating with people from just about any demographic, even though a lot of the people he hangs around with wouldn't want to hang out with each other. There is also just a sort of background level of, idk, awareness of things like using the right pronouns for people, or what exactly was going on with the AIDS crisis in 1991 and how it was changing, that makes you get the feeling that, while the author probably is not in those scenes, he must, in a pre-internet world, have done what Matt does, hanging around with a lot of different people, actually listening to them.

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