Re: Re: RARA-AVIS: Ellroy reviewd at Salon; Spillane still not dead

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 13 Jun 2001

Jess wrote:

"I'll repeat myself. The average fan of crime thrillers has never heard of Ulysses and James Joyce. To expect the average fan of crime thrillers to be more literate than the average reader is both unrealistic and unfair."

My quibble was not with his saying crime fans did not know Ulysses
(although I think the average reader, crime fan or not, has at least heard of it, even if they have never attempted to read it, as an alleged
"great book," and people of a certain age would remember it for its notoriety and its alleged obscenity), but with the assumption that crime fans had no interest in, cannot even handle complexity, whether Joyce's or Ellroy's.

I got the distinct feeling that he was claiming that Ellroy had not just left crime fiction behind, but narrow-minded crime fiction readers as well, that Ellroy was finally reaching the literary audience he deserved. True or not, and whether or not it applies to the reading audience as a whole, the Ulysses comment was clearly meant as a put-down of pedestrain readers who have little interest in anything but whodunnit.

"He has repeatedly stated, in interviews and essays, that he only reads crime fiction, and nothing else."

Of course, he has a more inclusive definition of crime fiction than the reviewer's, including True Confessions and Libra.

"Again, he's not talking about what the novel is, but how it is regarded--"categorized.""

However, he tacitly endorses that separation by spending most of the review separateing Tabloid and 6,000 from his earlier "crime" novels, how Ellroy has fulfilled his promise of more depth, more complexity, etc. He never says bookstores were wrong for changing the shelving. Nor does he say that Ellroy's earlier books should join them there.


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