RARA-AVIS: Re: Small World

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 08 Jul 2000

>I was ready to let this go, but Kev's post annoyed me....My post was
>about language and how it is commonly used, here and in
>Europe...Funny how none of that sifted down to Kev's rebuttal.

Or anyone else's, evidently. Actually most of your original post could be seen as more about culture than language (although, of course, language is a big -- but not the only -- part of culture), and your theory of how Americans have an innate natural understanding of hard-boiled that Europeans don't. Certainly, it wasn't just me who zeroed in on statements like this:

>Hardboiled...is something uniquely American. I am no Jingoist, but
>facts is facts. Nobody has ever done it better, and nobody ever will.

>HB's an American thing. (Euros writers) wouldn't understand. And,
>most likely, neither
>would their readers.

But if you want me to comment on language, you did write:

> From the purest technical standpoint, hardboiled is skeletonized language. We
>(Americans) can get away with it, because our linguistic history is one of

But I'm not so sure hard-boiled has to necessarily rely on skeletonized brevity of language to achieve its goal. Certainly Hammett's and most of Cain's prose is spare and lean, but the prose of Chandler and particularly Macdonald often went on non-abbreviated flights of poetic fancy, full of similes and metaphors. Of course, the fact neither was principally educated in the States, or ever felt completely, comfortably American, may have something to do with it.

I agree, though, that this is not (or should not be) some sort of nationalistic scrambling for scavenger-hunt points. Flag-waving is still too often the last refuge for scoundrels. Or is that patriotism?

Sorry for annoying you, Paul -- it wasn't my intent.


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