I Believe in (Joe Pantoliano as Teddy) Magyk

Sun Sep 23, 2012

I finished Elmore Leonard’s Glitz recently. It reads very much like a photoplay wasn’t far from the author’s mind, though I haven’t read enough of Leonard to know if that is his typical style. A made-for-tv version did come out in 1988, with Jimmy Smits as Miami detective Vincent Mora. I couldn’t help but picture Joe Pantoliano in the role of Teddy Magyck, a rapscallion who shoots Mora and plans to do so again for the remainder of the book.

Leonard uses the letter “a” to represent “uh” and related disfluencies or conversational particulates in dialogue, which I can’t recall ever seeing before. Magyck says “‘ey” a lot, which by the same system should be an ā. Perhaps that shocks the eye.

The novel is ethically alarming, but I honestly can’t tell if this is intentional. I firmly believe in the potential of successful authors to be cynical about their audience and mock them by inviting them to identify with viewpoint characters who only seem sympathetic in the company of grotesques and hideous stereotypes. What happens to Iris in this novel is reprehensible on any number of levels, but the narrative only allows us to consider her as a human being through Mora’s eyes; and he is motivated almost entirely by vanity. Is Leonard aware of this? Is the prolonged concluding scene, which is the only part of the book not easily imagined as an integral part of a ninety-minute film, evidence of this? I could see how the otherwise inexplicable plot-dragging at the conclusion could be an invitation to the reader to think about these dilemmas.