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However, beyond literary touchstones, I found myself reflecting while reading "Toulouse-inations" on cinematic parallels in JSH's method. Ostensibly we're reading a novel "about" Toulouse-Lautrec, but verisimilitude when Holland writes about period, just as with "Daniel Boone" is not to invoke historical accuracy per se, although sometimes it's indeed quite accurate. In this spirit I was thinking of Ken Russell's "Mahler" film, which I just happened to view for the first time concurrent with reading this novel.
There are dream sequences and other fantasies featuring the actor playing "Gustav Mahler" which feature elements and images that reference events that did not yet exist in Mahler's lifetime. Russell, as filmmaker is at once seemingly stating that the future after Mahler's time had an effect on Mahler in his time, or, alternately, we, as audience, are seemingly supposed to regard the past and future all at once "in the now" of the experience of the film. Of course Russell's "Mahler" is, as of this writing, forty years old, so just where "in time" is "the now" of watching the film?
Similarly, I think of a younger generation of filmmakers following Russell, the Cohen brothers, who often employ a kind of "in time timelessness" in many of their films. When we view "Barton Fink" and "Miller's Crossing" together, we're watching films set in the fifties and thirties of the twentieth century, respectively, yet both films allude to each other, and in the context of both they refer to historical events and realities, yet they seem both to be myths of reality of which those myths themselves are based on myths of cinematic as well as literary tropes of depicting history.
Follow me? Find me.
I often found myself, or didn't find myself as the case might have been, when reading "Toulouse-inations," getting lost in the reality principle of the prose and play and the juxtaposition of the two, asking myself, "Am I someone else dreaming he is J.T. Dockery reading a Jeffrey Scott Holland novel/play about Lautrec?" I even started to wonder "Am I Lautrec dreaming he is J.T. Dockery reading a novel/play by Holland, but in fact the novel/play nor Dockery or Holland exist?"
The thing about Holland's writing is that he doesn't ask the reader to ponder these underpinning questions while the reader is reading it. It just sort of happens. Let's not forget the book is also funny, entertaining, bawdy and reflects the qualities of the art of the subject, Lautrec. What makes this pulp fun is that, to reference another filmmaker, John Carpenter, who often asks his audience to question just where and the when are we, one can simply watch the show, or read the novel, in this case, without a care, like Borgnine at the theatre in "Escape From New York."
Literalists and rationalists and those otherwise predisposed to look at "historical fiction" as a kind of theme park ride specimen treasure hunt seeking for delineations/affirmations of historical text books may find themselves confounded. As for the rest of us who don't mind a little quantum decoherence with our tea, we might reflect that the fabricated reality of Holland's novels reflects a more "true" fabrication in other realities inside and outside of novels. Heck, let's get real gone: inside and outside of time, even.
There's latent structure to counterpoint the obvious structure in Holland's works, kids, and you may quote me on that.
Speaking of writers, I can see from where I'm sitting my single volume hardcover collection, "The Novels of Dashiell Hammett," and even if the reality of reading Holland's books now is as separate pieces, I think one should approach the still evolving suite of "21st century pulp fiction" Mr. Holland has been pumping out as different components of one work. His novels, thus far to me, read more clearly and reveal more of his literary worlds, and the intent of those fictive worlds, if read in congress with each other. I see this work, in my mind's eye, as, like the Hammett volume, a single collection with titles of each of these recent novels listed on the spine under the heading, "The Novels of Jeffrey Scott Holland."
If you were to ask me now, "But isn't that Hammet book in another room right as opposed to where you are right now in actuality? And, furthermore, Doc, are you making a sly reference to the fact that the Cohen brothers movie 'Miller's Crossing' itself seems to be an adaptation without being an adaptation of Hammett's 'Red Harvest,'" I would answer, "Not now, Slappy. We gotta end this review somewhere."