> 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
I'm afraid my experience with the readers (and if the people
who come into public libraries to read aren't average, who
is?) has taught me otherwise. I wish you were right, but I
don't believe you are.
> assumption that crime fans had no interest in,
cannot even handle
> complexity, whether Joyce's or Ellroy's.
Barra's statement was
"Fans of crime thrillers would have complained that "American
Tabloid" was nearly as impenetrable as "Ulysses" -- that is,
if fans of crime thrillers had known what "Ulysses"
I think you are inferring something about Barra's attitude
towards fans of crime thrillers that isn't there,
> 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.
I just reread the piece and didn't get that impression at
all. Which statements of his set you off? I think Barra was
speaking to how Barra is regarded by the Academy and by
publishers and critics, not by how he is regarded by his
And I don't believe that the average reader of Ellroy has
much interest in anything but the Ellroy and writers like
Ellroy. In my experience doing Reader's Advisory, something
like 8 in 10 readers not only don't want to be challenged by
what they read, but don't want to read anything different.
They've found their ideal genre (Regency Romances,
Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction, Raymond Carver) and they're
sticking with it.
> "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.
In interviews, including one a friend of mine did for her
dissertation, Ellroy has pooh-poohed reading things like
Libra. I tend to think his statements are part of his
shtick--but statements like those are why Barra (and me) was
surprised at the DeLillo influences.
> "Again, he's not talking about what the novel is,
but how it is
> 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.
But Barra himself says that Ellroy's topic--evil--hasn't
changed, and that ""American Tabloid" jerked Ellroy out of
the crime fiction shelves in the big bookstores and into
fiction." Ellroy doesn't control how AMERICAN TABLOID is
categorized. The "big bookstores"
(and libraries) do.
When Barra speaks of Ellroy fulfilling his promise of more
depth, he (clearly, to me) means that Ellroy's style is
evolving. I don't see in that statement that Barra believes
Ellroy is no longer writing crime fiction, though.
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