RARA-AVIS: Re: Shame the Devil/Sacred Cows

From: Doug Hoffman, MD ( hoffmand@cc.northcoast.com)
Date: 10 Mar 2002

Rambling letter from a newbie:

As chance would have it, I just picked up _Shame_ yesterday at our little library. I'm only 50 pages into it. I'm enjoying it, but I wouldn't call it a can't-put-down kinda book.

I had to comment on the sacred cows issue. Every few years my wife gets enraged because I make one-too-many conclusive comments ("so-and-so is crap", rather than the more politically correct "I don't like so-and-so"). At the same time, I'm not so passionate about any particular writer that I would get my hackles up over criticism. I'm fond of _Gatsby_, have read it several times since high school, but I recognize that it has its flaws. I'm also inordinately fond of Conrad's
_Heart of Darkness_, but oh boy is it flawed, too. (_Heart of Darkness_ as a crime novel? Hmm...) Are there any unflawed works out there? In the realm of Crime Lit, in which I am far from an expert, I can only think of _The Big Sleep_ .

Faulkner's a lighthearted kind of guy ; ) I still remember being depressed for weeks on end after finishing _The Sound and the Fury_. Nevertheless, _As I Lay Dying_ ranks as one of the most memorable books I've ever read... one of those rare cases where I read a book once, and still remember the ending!

Hemingway? I've read him, and to this day I can't grasp why people rank him among the 20th century's literary heavyweights. Reminds me of how everyone always gushes over David Mamet's wonderful dialogue-- which has always, always sounded canned to me. Some of these icons are, IMHO, latter day cases of the emperor's new clothes. To pick a genre I'm a little more familiar with, science fiction, can anyone think of a more flatulent icon than _Dune_? (One of the great tests of an empty icon is how easily spoofed it is... too wit, the annual Bad Hemingway contest. Some of you may have read a spoof on _Dune_ entitled, I think, _Doon, the Dessert Planet_, which I found VERY funny.)

Signing off before I wear out my welcome,

Doug Hoffman

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