today is the birthday of one of my favourite authors, mystery writer robert b. parker. i love his writing style (the influence of dashiell hammett, the grandfather of mystery novels, is clearly visible), i love his ideas, how he talks about boston.
most of all, i love the mixture of simplicity and subtlety in his characters, hidden under a modesty of snarky remarks, clean-but-right-out-there sensuality, tough-guy blusteriness, and an almost alarming amount of “he said, she said’s” that only the best authors can get away with.
the other day i picked up a jesse stone novel, stone cold. (normally i’m a spenser fan, the character that he became so famous for. and, no, the TV series does not do him justice, even though it’s entertaining).
one of the reasons why i like robert b. parker is because of his obvious interest in therapy. here is an excerpt from stone cold. (since amazon keeps on giving readers large excerpts, i feel it’s ok for me to do that, too. ok with RBP, too, i hope).
jesse stone, a police chief, sits here with his therapist, after living through the death of one of his officers.
“I took it personally,” Jesse said.
“You’re a person,” Dix said.
“Meaning it’s impossible not to take things, at some level, personally.”
“So what about professional?”
“Things exist simultaneously,” Dix said.
“Meaning I can take it personally and be professional?”
“Meaning you need to be two contradictory things at the same time.”
Jesse sat quietly.
Then he said, “You know about that.”
“It’s what you have to deal with.”
“What do you think all the rigmarole of psychotherapy is about.”
“You have to care about your patient,” Jesse said. “But you can’t let the caring interfere with your treatment.”
Dix made a movement with his head that might have been a nod. Jesse was quiet again.
i don’t agree with the idea that caring and providing professional assistance are necessarily contradictory although, of course, there’s often quite a tension between the two. but that doesn’t matter. what i like is that parker addresses difficult ideas like that, doesn’t try to solve them, just says, here it is, here is life in all its confounding, overwhelming intricacy. and he doesn’t need a lot of words to get that through to us.
happy birthday, robert b. parker!
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