September 8, 2006
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Tishomingo Blues

by Elmore Leonard

I ran across Elmore Leonard's good old Ten Rules of Writing the other day, and that got me thinking about literary hypertext and its many discontents. Leonard's goal is "to remain invisible when I'm writing a book." I wonder what that kind of invisibility would like like in a reflective and self-aware hypertext?

As Tishomingo Blues shows, it's a prominent kind of invisibility. We don't have much folderol here, and we've got some truly wonderful bits of dialogue. Here, two Mexican gunmen, pistols casually on a table in the hot Mississippi sun, are confronted by a Arlen, a redneck ex-deputy.

Hector turned his head to Tonto. "Fucking High Noon, man."

Arlen said, "I didn't hear you."

"I tole him," Hector said, "you want to pull your guns, but you don't have the nerve."

The one with the tobacco stains in his beard said, "What'd he say?"

But the one, Arlen, was louder, telling them, "You think that's what we come here for? To shoot you? Jesus Christ."

"Our Lord and Savior." Hector said. "No, I don't think to shoot us. Maybe scare us so we go home."

A circus high-diver, a small-town hit man, the Dixie Mafia, and some dudes from Detroit all get mixed together in the midst of a Civil War reenactment. It could only be Elmore Leonard, but he's carefully invisible.