RE: RARA-AVIS:the author or the work?

Date: 27 Apr 2000

One thing Keith said struck me,

"Which brings me to my Second Point: It may be a better critical paradigm to look at each work, rather than classify each author."

I know this is said in relation to subgenre classification ("hardboiled")--and most would agree with the point--, but it raises an interesting question of valuation that I don't recall being addressed on this list.

Some authors are valued for certain individual titles, but there seem to be others whose whole corpus (not corpse) makes them significant--no single big works, but what they're doing with a series character who develops or with variations on a plot or theme. I get that idea, occasionally, when folks insist that the best thing to do is start with the first work written to see whether you'll like an author. And perhaps some would argue that the whole of some author's work makes him or her just as "big" as someone who has written a handful of big titles.

For instance: Don't we tend to prize a James Cain for just a few titles, whereas we prize a Ross Thomas for a general quality of output throughout much of his career?

I'm really less interested in rating particular authors than the somewhat anti- academic proposition that FOR GENRE FANS (which we are), a career of many not- quite-masterpieces may elevate an author as high (or higher) as a career of 2-3 masterpieces. Less interested in our standards for masterpieces and choices, than how we apply them in choosing the authors we like. What about it?

Be interested in responses if I haven't fogged the question too much.

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