RARA-AVIS: The Great Wrong Place

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 10 Feb 2000

>There is the aspect of the
>corrupt city in almost every hardboiled/noir book/film, but there is
>also the healing aspect of nature, e.g. in "The Asphalt Jungle".
>That's not just hb-/noir; I think that's part of a more general tendency
>in modernism: eg, Lawrence's city is 'the great wrong place' while the
>country is presented as idyllic.

I've seen this phrase bandied about a lot lately. For the benefit of those of us who aren't on a one-name basis with every literary light who ever hung up a shingle, which Lawrence came up with the phrase, and what's the context? And what was the actual city?

By the way, the whole idea of a great wrong place is, at least now, something of, if not a myth, at least a dated notion. It's the soulless suburbs, with the endless cookie cutter malls, herd mentality and bored kids with the dead eyes that seem like the truly wrong places to me. And those Stepford-Wives-type guarded communities are even worse.

As I've said before, I could see Spade and Marlowe's descendants wearing Nikes, using a cellphone, or even being married, but it's really hard to picture any of them mowing the lawn.

Generally, the 'burbs have been the domain of mostly more traditional mysteries and cozies. But suburban noir--think about it. Now that would be cool to see.

By the way, for those of you whose wives allow you to buy it, this month's PLAYBOY has, of all things, an article on private eyes by Dick (Blue Bayou, Laughing Dog, etc.) Lochte. Dick (good P.I. name, that) seems to have worked his way through the PWA membership, including our own Wild Bill Crider, for juicy quotes. I've haven't really read the article yet, but it seems like a good solid quickie intro to/overview of the genre.

I've no idea if the article is online, or not, but I doubt it. And Bill, what's Miss March REALLY like?

Oh, and Mr. Blue said:

>You and I aren't going to agree about GP. We both like him, but you like
>him the most, and you like him for things that I believe are shortcomings in
>his work. You may even see liking him (without reservation) as a
>qualification for early 21st century hipness

Rest assured that I have reservations about almost everything. I don't think liking Pelecanos is a mark of hipness.And he's certainly far from reaching the level of rammed-down-our-throats "hipness" of Jim Thompson in the eighties. I don't think the general public knows or even cares who he is. When I read Pelecanos' first few books, they were all British editions because he was out of print in North America.

Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/ Now: The last few days to vote for The Thrillies. Soon: The P.I. Poll on Short Fiction, plus new stuff of our own.

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