RARA-AVIS: Paen to MacDonald

From: James Rogers ( jetan@ionet.net)
Date: 29 Apr 2000

    Surely I am not the only one who hungers to get away from the interminable chain of dispute respecting _Moby Dick_ and _Huckleberry Finn_. Worthy books, but yeesh.
    On a lower class note, I would like to sing the praises of John D. McDonald. As a youth, I sort of fit all of his stuff into the catagory of Travis McGee, which is not bad but which suffers from the vices that afflict series fiction in general.
    However, I just finished _Barrier Island_ (was this his last?) and am in the middle of an earlier book about Vegas at the moment. While MacDonald is too crass and uncool for anyone to compare him to Melville or Twain, or even Chandler or Hammett, he is also so good that it almost amazes me that we can find time to talk about anyone else. His antagonists, in the non-McGee stories, are so rounded and so sympathetically drawn that it is simply shocking. His bitter psychological insight makes Ross McDonald seem like a guest on the Oprah show. His acute eye for social class outstrips Chandler, no small feat, and reminds one of the best of John O'Hara. At his own best, he strikes me as vastly better than an over-rated literateuer like Simenon.
   I really mean all this crap, and I don't think I am just puffing the guy. Don't we have any stone-cold MacDonald fans on the list? And does anyone know how a Harvard grad came to crank out cheap paperback originals?


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