RARA-AVIS: Gertrude Stein on Detective Fiction

Bill Hagen (billha@ionet.net)
Sun, 26 Jul 1998 22:51:58 -0500 (CDT) While we have a thread of interest in views of detective fiction by other
authors (Perleman), I'll share Gertrude Stein's comments, from her 1936
essay, "What Are Master-Pieces and Why Are There So Few of Them?"

"It is very curious but the detective story which is you might say the only
really modern novel form that has come into existence gets rid of human
nature by having the man dead to begin with the hero is dead to begin with
and so you have so to speak got rid of the event before the book begins.
There is another very curious thing about detective stories. In real life
people are interested in the crime more than they are in detection...but in
the story it is the detection that holds the interest and that is natural
enough because the necessity as far as action is concerned is the dead man,
it is another function that has very little to do with human nature that
makes the detection interesting. And so always it is true that the
master-piece has nothing to do with human nature or with identity, it has
to do with the human mind and the entity that is with a thing in itself and
not in relation."

Bill Hagen

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