Don’t idle! Things on “Nobody Move”


While everyone is feasting on Noche Buena, I tried to think about Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move.

Yes, this is 21st century fiction, written by someone who perhaps has penchance for the 60s hippies and 80s rock bands and other creative trend that have emerged in the recent past. Where Johnson brought me in Nobody Move is not a world of damsels-in-distress or a confused identity or a battle against a heart-rending fate. In point-blank range, he microscoped for me, a world of mainstream losers – outlaws and pace-setters – a world where all our traditions and laws have seemed to be relegated somewhere else.

Jimmy Luntz one-night-stands with Anita, the money-nabbing bombshell, or the bombshell money-nabberr — whichever persona appeals truer to you. And together, albeit sometimes in different routes, they tried to dodge the axe both of the law, or only those whom they have wronged before, which unsurprisingly are also not “very legally clean” people. Talking to Luntz, Anita would argue, and breaching our sense of logic, “You can’t steal stolen money (88).” Luntz himself was up against a drug-dealer and he was just content at the fact that he’s doing the lesser evil. Still, he had to find a way to avoid the mess he has started with his contacts with Gambol and Juarez. There’s Anita, trying to avoid a lawsuit and the potential of jail after facing money issues with her husband which she just divorced. Eventually, she killed him. In this world of drug-deals and almost nonchalant murders and other violence, one can hardly expect even a morsel of lasting genuineness. Everyone might be playing their own games and trusts and partnerships can only be tactical as they are temporary. Jimmy thinks he was lucky for fucking a beautiful Indian in Anita but this luck, we might avow, also ran out easily. Anita sometimes implied she’s more than liking Jimmy (“I like a bad man who hates himself” (87)), but as we expected perhaps, there are no wedding bells or kissing scenes in the end. It would just spoil every suspense and carefree dialogues the novel has built on in earlier parts to bring it to its end.

Capra and Sally Fuck, Jimmy’s buddies, were either dead or has fled to a more probable frightened escape when the novel ends, but Jimmy being able to carry on does not elevate him to the status of the winner. I believe he neither wants nor needs that elevation. His ways, the dominant center of discourse would tell, are that of a loser, an unpopular, unloved man. But I believe he does not care one bit. That life of a “loser,” a life off-center is his, is theirs, and to put a quotation mark in a word is to render that term malleable, to showcase its manipulability, and its being manipulated.

Jimmy gunned Juarez, the one whom he owed a large sum of money on. In their world of guns and golden Cadillacs and quick sex and quick everything, there is no welcome remark for the nervous, the tentative and the mushy. Everyone in the novel, from the pretentiously good Jimmy to the powerful-because-rich Juarez, to hard-to-underestimate Anita, has some great mettle and spunk that enabled them to go through the whirlwinds in the planet. And these are not your usual dramas. These do not involve losing a parent or a girlfriend, but actual face-to-face encounters with the vicissitudes of fate, encounters with the gun-wielding enemies or the warrant-arresting law enforcers.

Crime is the name of the game and when the law and the police says “nobody move,” the opposite point becomes more applicable. The point is to keep moving and start moving fast. Or much better, keep moving and be at pace with your own self and your own nasty tricks and do not wait for that sort of frightful moment when someone who clings on law and order utters those two words.

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