Re: RARA-AVIS: words

rikke & hanne kesten (
Fri, 17 Sep 1999 11:08:44 +0000

Anders Engwall wrote:
> Juri Nummelin:
> > I find Spillane rather loathsome author who
> > has more racist and fascist attitudes than almost any other writer.
> Indeed. When i first read "I, the Jury" I was appalled. Blatant
> racism, sexism, homophobia and even advocacy of a police state --
> I could hardly believe anyone could write such things. And as has
> been pointed out already, Spillane obviously has/had an enormous
> sexual hangup.

If you read "Spillane" as "the early Fifties" Juri has presented a perfect definition of life in that era. Red-phobia, McCarthy, post-WW2 with veterans re-defining society while schooling on the GI Bill and moving to the suburbs on GI housing mortgages, the country emerging from Puritanism into the pre-Beat era, Jane Russell's bosom on billboards from "The Outlaw" defining the forefront of a new sexuality, kids diving under desks in school drills, and Nuclear terror permeating societies dreams.
   j> ......I thought "I, the Jury" was clumsily,
> almost amateurishly, written. Add to that Spillane's absurd
> attitude to almost everything, and I have to rate it as one of
> the worst novels I've ever read, regardless of genre. In sense
> it is fascinating for this very reason; it is interesting to know
> just how bad literature can be. I must admit, however, that the
> last few lines are very cool.

I read "I, The Jury" when I was thirteen or fourteen -- a sixteen year old friend passed it along to me -- and believe me, this book broke new ground. Things were said in dialogue and description that had never been said in popular fiction before, words that left an incredible impression on those of us who could get our hands on that book. Spillane was our hero. He opened doors to the unimaginable. And Velda!! My goodness, what an object of desire Spillane created for us.

When I re-read the book years later I was caught between recall of my first impression and my more educated sensibility. Yet somehow, the pleasure of that first read overcame the shortcomings of material that was now seriously dated.

But Spillane certainly did break new ground in the genre. Read with hat in mind, it suffers age more gently.


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