Sunday, October 21, 2012

Real life stories

I am lucky enough to have a job that often puts me in the way of interesting people, and sometimes these are authors.

Yesterday I met with Lee Child, who has written a gazillion books starring the quirky Jack Reacher. I have come late to the Child oeuvre, mistakenly thinking his were spy novels and I always find those too complicated and arid for my casual reading tastes. Nope, Child's books are mysteries, or thrillers if not always a big fat mystery, and they star Reacher who is a former military cop with amazing skill at fighting (the world slows down for him and he can determine the precise geometry of the punch that won't hit him) and tremendous knowledge of guns (there is a type of revolver which is the one you want if you are ever forced into a game of Russian roulette with just one bullet, because the weight of the bullet will always be at the bottom and thus won't be in your brain. Handy to know, though you may not want to try this at home.) Reacher's quirk is that he is itinerant and owns nothing -- he buys new clothes when the old ones are too filthy to pass, and stays in crap motels as he wanders America to stop crime.

I flirted with Mr. Child mercilessly -- charming and refreshing as I no doubt am, I did notice he was gazing rather anxiously around the room for help -- and we got to talking about Reacher and whether he was ever going to find a nice woman and settle down. A sub-plot of the past few books has been Reacher's steady progress toward Virginia and a woman, and of course the hovering question is what will happen between them when he gets there.

"The problem is he likes smart women and no smart woman would put up with him," says Child. Why not? "Well, he's smelly and he has no money."

Smell, I don't know. There are bathrooms with showers in most motels, and Reacher does carry a toothbrush in his pocket. But no money? He buys new clothes every few days -- in one book it is divulged that his clothing budget is about $10,000 a year, higher than mine and a figure that would buy some decent Celine if that were his taste. And cheap motels at say $79 a night -- his rent is higher than mine.Neither Reacher nor I own a vehicle or a home, and he spends more on clothes. As I was pointing this out to Mr. Child in Reacher's defense, he didn't so much change his general point of view on the character he'd created as take a step away from the insistently flirty, itinerant, poverty-stricken woman at his side.

While we can debate whether Mr. Child is mistaken about those essential elements, eg. whether Reacher can rightly be termed as having "no money",  more to the point, women, even smart ones, seem to overlook many flaws in order to be with men. So the author is wrong -- Reacher in real life would have no trouble in nailing down the lady of his choice.

Think I'm making this up?  I have a friend who has been smitten and heartbroken over a man in his 50's who has no job and no prospects of having one. But poverty isn't the reason for their disharmony-- nope, the real reason is he has told her that he is unable to commit to have sex with just one person, he has to have lots of sex partners in his life at all times. That he is able to have even one boggles my mind and that's where Child and I are similar.

However I must admit that in  my own life I've put up with cheating-and-apologizing, meanness, dullness, and cheapness. I have given years of my life to men who were only so interested, and who took the first train outta town as soon as they could.

I have no idea where the imaginary Reacher will end up, and that's for Child to say. But I do know what would happen in real life. And you know what? I prefer the fantasy world of Child, where smart women can enjoy a bad man for a fleeting moment if he intrigues her, but then move on to better things.

May the worlds of imagination and reality become one.