RARA-AVIS: Re: Passport, Please...

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 03 Sep 2001

Juri wrote:

> But the conversation is
>going nowhere - just because Chandler spent his early years in England,
>does that make him an English writer? This is absurd to me.

Imagine, then, how I feel. You're arguing a point I'm not making.

I'm not saying that I think Chandler is a British writer, though I do think someone might try to make a case for it (it wouldn't be me, though). But I am saying that to jam him into one tidy, narrow slot as simply an American writer is to simplify him beyond belief. Hence my suggestion that he's a hybrid, neither unmistakably British nor unmistakably American, but almost always unmistakably Chandler. Hence my crack about breaking out the hyphens.

It doesn't (or shouldn't) diminish Chandler (or the United States) to say that his formal education and early writing influences were mostly British, that he thought of himself for many years as British-American, and that that background and those influences played a large part in his writing later on in life.

I'm not sure why (beyond flag-waving purposes) anyone would feel so threatened by what's pretty much accepted wisdom here, that were Chandler to never have left the United States (to school and later, to war) he would have been a very different writer, and maybe even one we would have never heard of.

> > And if there is some sort of American style, what is it? And how does
> > it correspond with such different "unmistakably American" writers
> > as,say, Norman Mailer, James Fenimore Cooper, Erica Jong, Mark Twain,
> > Anne Tyler, John Updike and Danielle Steele?
>One could argue about Cooper and his roots in the European Romantic
>philosophy, but I'll pass...

So now Chandler's an American writer, but Cooper isn't? What are you, the Literary Immigration Police?

>If Chandler, like other writers, is a sum of his experience, then how
>can he be unmistakably him/herself? In the human experience other voices
>come forward so forcefully that it's sometimes pretty hard to tell
>what's one's own.

It's basic math, which is something I understand a whole hell of a lot better than European Romantic philosophy, or why Cooper having his roots in it would disqualify him from being considered an American writer.

1 + 3 = 4 4 is unmistakably 4 You're trying to say 4 is 3, but not 1. I'm saying 4 = 1 + 3.

That's all. If this gets anymore complicated, I may have to take off my shoes and socks to count higher....

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