RARA-AVIS: Hammett & feminists & postmodernism

Victoria Esposito-Shea (vmes@northnet.org)
Mon, 25 Oct 1999 08:18:42 -0400

 Feminists hate Hammett?
: Oh, come on. In the real world, being a feminist and liking Hammet
: are not mutually exclusive. Let's leave the conspiracy theories for
: the self-obsessed, artificial, closed world of academia and the
: paranoid alternative universe of talk radio call-in shows.
: As a feminist myself, I see relatively little in Hammett's work that
: really bothers me (especially given the time it was written), and
: much that actually seems sympathetic to women (again, especially
: given the time). Now Hammett's life is another story, but then, this
: ain't People Magazine.

Kev, you took the words right out of my mouth. Mario, I'd add to this that I don't see Hammett as incompatible with postmodernism either--in fact, quite the contrary. If you take a peek at the intro to The Continental Op
(Steven Marcus, isn't it?), that's a pretty straightforward postmodern/Marxist analysis which is obviously very kind to Hammett. This is not to say he has to be read that way, but it's certainly possible. There is a real depth to Hammett--cf. also the intro to Nightmare Town, where Nolan reads the stories & novels as trying to make sense of the classic lone wolf's, and by extension Hammett's own, place & utility in society. Again, you don't have to read it that way, but there's certainly plenty of opportunity.

Now *Spillane*, his two-dimensional crap pisses me off on a feminist level because (to borrow a phrase) there's no there there. You agree with him or you're scum--end of story. No further depth or meaning.

BTW, is anyone else finding Nightmare Town surprisingly. . . baroque? I swear some of these sentences go on for miles.


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