Re: RARA-AVIS: Style vs Attitude

Date: 10 Feb 2000

    There's a lot of truth to what you've said, but anyone who looks at Hammett's life or Chandler's life after they began to make money, can see that these guys (and many of their contemporaries) were very serious about their work, and acutely aware of what they wanted to achieve as craftsmen or artists.
    Hammett did all of his fiction writing in a twelve year span and ended up disillusioned and disappointed with his critics, himself, and the genre of writing he had helped to establish. "This hard boiled stuff is dangerous," he said. He had hoped to make more of it and of himself.
    Chandler saw himself in much the same way James Ellroy and Walter Mosely seem to see themselves these days, as great, serious, novelists whose work has been misunderstood and underappreciated. He knew exactly what he wanted to do in his writing, what he was interested in and what he was not, and he had considerable disdain for those who failed to see the uniqueness, and value of his stories. In fact, his move to England had much to do with the fact that the English critics considered him a major voice in 20th century lierature.
    Writers often write for money; they did then and they do now. but they don't do it because they think its an easy way to make a living, or because they think they've spotted a formula that will enable them to "write by the numbers." Writing fiction is what they want to do, and they hope they can get paid for doing it. The fact that these folks were market savvy and eager to earn a dollar doesn't mean that they were just a bunch of guys banging out words they thought would bring in some coin, nor that their writing choices were mostly market driven.

                                        Jim Blue

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