RARA-AVIS: RE: Women Rewriting

From: billha@ionet.net
Date: 26 May 2000

I'm certainly with Kevin (re Fables...) in his reaction to the blurb I posted for Priscilla L. Walton and Manina Jones' _Detective Agency: Women Rewriting the Hard-Boiled Tradition_ (U. Calif. Press, 1999).

I always hope the book recommended in such theory-clotted language is better than the review...,but there is some logic to guilt by association.

One aspect of the review intrigues me. Quoting first "...[women writers have reimagined the hard-boiled novel, challenging not only the patriarchal culture that defines these fictional worlds" etc., with particlar mention of Paretsky, Grafton, and Muller.

Now, the particular authors mentioned have been discussed and mostly dismissed in this forum. I see no need to debate their de-/merits again. But couldn't it be argued that these three--adding Stabenow, Cornwell, McCrumb perhaps--"open the door" to the world of hard-boiled for a lot of new readers? We all read something lighter, pulpish, or less "pure" before we came to the good stuff.

Secondly, like 'em or not, haven't the women writers (and the whole cultural outlook) somehow "changed the rules" of the genre? Or at least changed the perspective on society? By the latter question, I mean even if the novels we read continue the attitudes of certain decades (30s-50s) toward race and gender, there is a difference (or maybe we're just different). Sexism or racism in older novels by Spillane and newer novels by Ellroy set in the same period just don't read the same way.

It's lunchtime. I'll leave the thread dangling there. It's wonderful to be through grading papers for another academic year, and be able to dip into the pile of RA recommended books.

Bill Hagen billha@ionet.net

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