The Postman Always Rings Twice (book review) by James M. Cain

200625: how many times i have read this i am not sure (5?). definitely favorite, this is one of the first noir read, and though so short contains extensive plot, complexity, irony, all told in simple, flat, everyday prose. this time i think about how the ugliness and sordid aspects of plot and characters, the amorality of even the prosecution and defense lawyers, all of this is necessary to highlight anguished love affair, the fatalism, that appeals to the philosophers...


i do not know why, but for me, love of any sort redeems the most immoral, amoral, simply wrong actions, so i maintain sympathy with both man and woman despite being, objectively described as ‘scum’ by one contemporary reviewer. who recognized however the swift, propulsive, twisty plot and quality of writing. there is no real attempt to present the narrator positively as his own words damn him. but there are moments of love, of transcendence, when they ‘are on the mountaintop’, where at least i can wish things would work out...


there are embedded surrealities like the woman big cat hunter, like the foolish blackmailers, like the cat ‘deader than hell’ at the stepladder, the accidental encounter that brings the man back to husband and wife... i interpret the title as saying fate will not be denied, not in desire, not in murder, not in punishment. the postman rings once, you miss him, don’t worry. the postman always rings twice...


??? 90s: they have tried but nobody has succeeded in making a film out of this short masterpiece. ‘proust in mechanics overalls’- Raymond Chandler’s words- is pretty good summation of this story of the ordinary joe, his gal who is married to someone else. and murder. and cruel fate. you can see what Camus saw in it to write l’Etranger...

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