Re: RARA-AVIS: Ellroy reviewd at Salon; Spillane still notdead

From: Jess Nevins (
Date: 13 Jun 2001

Mark Sullivan wrote:

> Okay, I'm not too proud to cop to being a dedicated genre reader. And I
> don't think my experience is appreciably different from that of the
> "average genre reader," even if I do have a few initials after my name.
> Private eye novels are my default reading. I find great comfort in the
> conventions. I don't particularly want to be challenged.

I think there's a difference, though, between having preferences and flatly refusing to read anything that isn't in your genre.

An old Playboy article comes to mind. The author described how to make party tapes of music, and said that there were four basic types of party tape makers. One of these four (the author said) had, at some point in their life, discovered The Truth in music, and so for the rest of their life would only listen to, for example,
"mid-period Uriah Heep."

A lot of people I deal with have found, in various ways, The Truth in cyberpunk or surrealist fiction of biographies and just don't want to expand their horizons.

> Which quote do I find insulting to readers of crime fiction? Actually,
> it's the same one you quote:
> "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" is."]
> Forget the Ulysses comparison (drop out everything in the brackets) and
> you are still left with the claim that crime fiction readers found
> Tabloid impenetrable. Where is the evidence of this? It was a
> bestseller. Is it farfetched to believe that many of the buyers,
> particularly the early buyers, were fans from his earlier books?
> And it found a big enough audience that 6,000 was assured an even larger
> press run. How has it been selling? Can't it be assumed that a certain
> number (probably a large number) of those sales are from readers of
> Tabloid, many of them crime fiction readers? Would any of them move on
> to the second in the series if they could not penetrate the first?

I'm not sure I see the problem. The book is impenetrable. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's a product of Ellroy's style and plotting. But I don't think being impenetrable, and I don't believe Barra is saying this, is the same as being unintelligble.


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