RARA-AVIS: How does this definition sound?

From: Frederick Zackel ( fzackel@wcnet.org)
Date: 14 Jun 2001

Usually I teach that "popular culture is traditional middle class culture in a carnival atmosphere." By the same token, popular fiction puts traditional middle class culture on trial in a carnival setting. (Surprisingly enough, those traditional middle class values are acquited.) The Supermarket Tabloid World, if you like. I don't think there should be any surprise that one of Ellroy's best sellers was called American Tabloid. I don't think anybody should be surprised its successes popped it out of "the crime genre" into "pop fiction." Like the medieval world, our consumer society puts its values on trial to see if we should still hold onto them. Jon Benet Ramsey, or OJ, or the Nanny Trial, Elian Gonsalez, or Alien Abduction get front page coverage because we all want to step inside the curtain and see the Freak Show. The American Media searches for that Freak Show point-of-view for tonight's Primetime News. "Hard-boiled" is an attitude an individual has toward that Freak Show, while "Noir" means you're a prisoner of it. You want hard-boiled: Rose Kennedy buried Jimmy Hoffa in the Hyannisport Rose Garden after he got away with whacking two of her sons and one of their mistresses (you know which one; she sang "Happy Birthday, Mister President.") Hoffa's only target was RFK, for the 1950s Kevauver
(spelling?) hearings. But, hey, Bobby kept going after Hoffa.

Or do I sound too much like Ellroy? (You should hear my theories on DiMaggio!)

Frederick Zackel

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