Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cherchez la femme

The Black Dahlia, the movie, is to be released next week. It's based on James Ellroy's novel, which in turn is based on the true-life murder mystery of Elizabeth Short. I read it about a decade ago. The incisive psychological portrayal of a cop's grim obsession with the Dahlia is undoubtedly informed by events in Ellroy's life, the rape and murder of his own mother.

James Ellroy on his mother and the Dahlia:
It was a salutary ode to Elizabeth Short and a self-serving and perfunctory embrace of my mother. I acknowledged the Jean–Betty confluence in media appearances and exploited it to sell books. My performances were commanding at first glance and glib upon reappraisal. I cut my mother down to sound-bite size and packaged her wholesale. I determined the cause of my ruthlessness years later.

She owned me. Her claim rankled. I wanted to portray myself as a man above all Oedipal constraints. I had created a fictional Elizabeth Short to usurp my mother’s claim and upstage her. It worked in the novel. It sold a great many books. It left Jean Hilliker still dead on that roadside, unblessed with love.


Cherchez la femme.
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