Re: RARA-AVIS: Crafty argument

From: Greg Swan (
Date: 09 Feb 2000

From: "Mark Blumenthal" <>
> Noted critic and author Edmund Wilson(To the Finland Station, Memoirs of
> Hecate County) in a 1944 essay wrote, "Mr Hammett...infused the old
> of Sherlock Holmeswith a certain underworld brutality which gave readers a
> new shudder in the days when it was fashionable to be interested in
> gangsters; but beyond this, he lacked the ability to bring the story to
> imaginite life.

Wow. I think Wilson got it almost all right 15 years after the fact in 1944! He spotted the 19th century influence on the plotting (Holmes), the realism that Hammett dropped on a pulp scene which primarily published romantic adventure fiction ("new shudder"). Also, Wilson clearly understood that Hammett's precise, spare and detached approach to writing represented something different. He decided it was different bad instead of different good, though. So, he attributed Hammett's approach to a LACK of ability when he could just as easily have praised it as a ground-breaking effort on the part of a literary genius. But that's only because he didn't like the book. :-)

Thanks for a treat, Mark.

Greg Swan

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