RARA-AVIS: Re: Red Hot

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 18 Sep 2000

Kip wrote:

>Spend an afternoon reading the slim new biography of MacDonald, THE
>come away with the understanding that the man was a lot less
>compelling than his works. ....He comes across as a guy who
>approached writing in the same way any business person approaches
>any other business venture. He didn't seem particularly inspired;
>he is presented as a craftsman who went to work early in the
>morning, took a break for lunch, then worked through the afternoon
>before finishing his day with a gin and tonic. He did this day
>after day, year after year. He was not much at all like Travis

Well, no, one was a writer, one was a "salvage consultant." But as far as I can tell, they shared the same thoughts, concerns and beliefs. That should count for something.

Aren't most authors (not counting the rather pathetic ones who pimp their personal tragedies for People Magazine every time a new book comes out) less compelling than their works? Certainly the shy, nerdy, bookwormy Chandler was not the hard-talking, take charge-figure Marlowe was, and by all accounts, Hammett was not the charming, lovable drunk that Nick Charles was. I don't think you have to be some wisecracking, gin-soaked, gun-toting bruiser to write this stuff (or even read it). After all, there's a lot to be said for imagination. Really, the old saw about "writing what you know" is ultimately pretty limiting.

Which means MacDonald probably was inspired -- to imagine and write about lives and lifestyles he didn't live himself. It's just that the new bio apparently (I haven't read it, I'm just basing this on what you guys said) fails to tell us what that inspiration was. Perhaps it was only the next pay cheque, perhaps there was no deeper "there" there. In which case, is it the bio or the life that's disappointing?

I dunno. It's too bad the bio apparently fails to deliver. I'd have loved to know what made JDM tick. But maybe if we know the answer, we still won't be satisfied, because it's not the one we want to hear.

Which is why we should trust the art, not the artist.

Anyway, just my two cents.


Kevin Burton Smith The Thrilling Detective Web Site http://www.colba.net/~kvnsmith/thrillingdetective/
-- # To unsubscribe from the regular list, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to # majordomo@icomm.ca. This will not work for the digest version. # The web pages for the list are at http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/ .

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 18 Sep 2000 EDT