March 10, 2014
What would you most like from Elmore Leonard’s estate sale?
by Sal Robinson
On Thursday of last week, the contents of Elmore Leonard’s home in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills went up for sale. Fans came out in droves to buy Leonard’s books, records, table linens, and assorted tchotchkes, and to tell their stories to the various news networks covering the event.
Some of these stories were less exciting than others. From Hometownlife.com, which covers suburban Detroit:
In 2007, George Kelly of Trenton met Leonard during a book-signing event at the old Borders bookstore on Woodward Avenue. Kelly, who’s a musician, gave the author a personal CD wrapped in brown paper.
On Thursday, he found the unwrapped CD with a price tag on it.
“The good news to me was that he hadn’t thrown it away,” Kelly said. “Not only that, but they didn’t charge me for it because of the story.”
On the other hand, from the Detroit News:
“Just to be in his home is a dream,” said David Brunell, a Livonia lawyer and “true fan” from Livonia, who bought a copy of Leonard’s novel, “Be Cool.”
Brunell once patiently waited at a book-signing to get an autograph with his copy of Leonard’s “Djibouti: A Novel.” “I only have one autograph but I treasure it,” he said.
Leonard was born in New Orleans, but spent most of his life in the Detroit area, and the sale, which was organized by his family members, was also a chance for friends and neighbors to say goodbye to a local boy and get a little something to remember him by: the Detroit News reporter, Laura Berman, bought his stapler.
But for longtime Leonard fans, the most surprising part of the chance to rummage around in his stuff might have been how very un-Leonard-y it turned out to be. I guess we all know that life doesn’t imitate art or art life or whichever way it’s supposed to go, but I never expected the author of Get Shorty to have quite so many embroidered throw pillows. Photos from the sale show Italian vases, Laura Ashley sheets, and tasseled lamps, with nary a vinyl sofa or an elaborate bong in sight.
It feels, in fact, a little bit schizophrenic — I picture Leonard with his feet on an embroidered footstool
writing these lines (from Freaky Deaky):
What happened, a guy by the name of Booker, a twenty-five-year-old super-dude twice-convicted felon, was in his Jacuzzi when the phone rang. He yelled for his bodyguard Juicy Mouth to take it. “Hey, Juicy?” His bodyguard, his driver and his houseman were around somewhere. “Will somebody get the phone?” The phone kept ringing. The phone must have rung fifteen times before Booker got out of the Jacuzzi, put on his green satin robe that matched the emerald pinned to his left earlobe and picked up the phone. Booker said, “Who’s this?” A woman’s voice said, “You sitting down?” The phone was on a table next to a green leather wingback chair. Booker loved green. He said, “Baby, is that you?” It sounded like his woman, Moselle. Her voice said, “Are you sitting down? You have to be sitting down for when I tell you something.” Booker said, “Baby, you sound different. What’s wrong?” He sat down in the green leather chair, frowning, working his butt around to get comfortable. The woman’s voice said, “Are you sitting down?” Booker said, “I am. I have sat the fuck down. Now you gonna talk to me, what?” Moselle’s voice said, “I’m suppose to tell you that when you get up, honey, what’s left of your ass is gonna go clear through the ceiling.
Or gazing at his reflection in a mirror surrounded by golden-winged cherubs
musing over the opening to Killshot:
The Blackbird told himself he was drinking too much because he lived in this hotel and the Silver Dollar was close by, right downstairs. Try to walk out the door past it. Try to come along Spadina Avenue, see that goddamn Silver Dollar sign, hundreds of light bulbs in your face, and not be drawn in there. Have a few drinks before coming up to this room with a ceiling that looked like a road map, all the cracks in it. Or it was the people in the Silver Dollar talking about the Blue Jays all the time that made him drink too much. He didn’t give a shit about the Blue Jays. He believed it was time to get away from here, leave Toronto and the Waverley Hotel for good and he wouldn’t drink so much and be sick in the morning. Follow one of those cracks in the ceiling.
It seems to be case of “the more flowery the home, the less flowery the prose.” But by my lights, the most Leonard-esque items on sale were the following pair:
A pre-flatscreen Sony TV and remote, and a stuffed antelope head? I’m sold, Dutch.
Sal Robinson is a former Melville House editor. She's also the co-founder of the Bridge Series, a reading series focused on translation.