Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sheer poetry

"His tie is askew. His third-day shirt has ring-around-the-collar. His thick, wavy clump of hair overhangs eyes screwed tight in a lopsided squint, a brow that is permanently furrowed and a leathery puss smudged with unshaven stubble...he looks like an ambulatory cypress stump in baggy brown pants. And the raincoat. The raincoat is an oversized, unhung affair in the last stages of decomposition, scarred and seasoned with the grease of a thousand fingers."

Who chisled out this mighty prose that so deftly paints such an evocative portrait of a protagonist? Steinbeck? Faulkner? No, although you could be forgiven for thinking so. It was written by a titan named Alfred Lawrence in 1972, and is excerpted from "Columbo #1", a paperback novelization of a "Columbo" episode I recently bought in Denver for a quarter. "Columbo" was a fine show for its time, and I look forward to reading the read of the 126-page tome (the excerpt above is the 1st paragraph of the book! Talk about starting with a bang).

My favorite part? That's easy: "...he looks like an ambulatory cypress stump in baggy brown pants." Beautiful.


RGame said...

Why are so many fingers touching his coat? And how many people would that be? Even if every person who touched his coat used all ten of their fingers, that would mean a hundred people touched his coat.

And why are they covered (or seasoned) with grease? And who seasons fingers, and why?

Also, which is better -- unshaven stubble or clean-shaven stubble?

BlogFoot said...

I think the writer was referring to Columbo's own fingers repeatedly touching his coat, or more accurately, wiping food residue on it.

Why were his fingers greasy? Because Columbo had poor dietary habits. He was always eating a hoagie, meatball sub, or holding a cigar. It was how he tricked the upper crust criminals he was always investigating into believing he was a dumb slob, when in reality he was sharp as a tack.