Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: RARA AVIS: Ellroy/Golden Age

From: Jess Nevins (
Date: 03 Sep 2000

Michael Sharp wrote:

> jess wrote:
> >This is a different definition of "golden age" than the one I'm used to,
> obviously. A "golden age" is a time when >things were better, and I really
> don't believe that
> >Ellroy--or most of us, for that matter--think that things were better
> during the 1940s.
> >If you mean "golden age" in terms of publishing, sure. But that isn't the
> context in which the original poster >alleged Ellroy's affection for the
> 1940s and 1950s.
> Depends what you mean by "things." "Things" were better, I think,
> writing-wise.

Just to make myself excessively clear, when I said "things" I meant life in general, as opposed to writing and publishing. Perhaps the 1940s and 1950s were a Golden Age for publishing and writing
(although I have to wonder at the percentage of profits writers made from their work then as opposed to now, and at what rights they retained to their work), but in terms of society as a whole, I very much doubt that.

> And while I'm sure not many people have some burning desire
> to return to and live in the middle of the 20th century, I do think the
> whole impulse to read hardboiled fiction today is permeated with nostalgia.
> I think the aesthetic of earlier times, the brands of masculinity, the
> pre-electronic hands-on-ness of the time ... some combo of these things
> *is* appealing to lots of readers, I think. Not all of them, not for me
> anyway, but writers and film makers simply would not keep returning to the
> 30s-50s if there weren't something in them that held appeal for people. In
> Ellroy and Mosley, Chinatown and LA Confidential, desire for some
> "original" hardboiled moment is everywhere in contemporary hb culture. Not
> good, not bad, necessarily, just there.

But, again, you're mixing the appeal of that moment with nostalgia, which is, I repeat, a privileging of that moment.

I can certainly see why writers choose the 30s-50s; there's an aesthetic about that time and place, in terms of the perceived style
(of fashion and dialogue) and the historical and cultural resonances of those decades, that is undeniably appealing. Those were the years when Bogie defined cool, and when cars were big and low-slung and looked mean and fast. But to see those years as the Golden Age for anything but writing and publishing is to want to return to those years, to see those decades as being superior to our own. And there I disagree with you. I just don't think more than a small handful of fans or writers really thinks that life in the 1930s-1950s was better than life is today. I think people might be nostalgic about individual aspects of those decades--clothes and dialogue, again--but I don't think they see the entire age as a Golden Age. Not really.

jess--and if they do they aren't thinking things through

# To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to
#  This will not work for the digest version.
# The web pages for the list are at .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 03 Sep 2000 EDT