RARA-AVIS: Re: poppa and pauline

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 11 Mar 2002

Jim Blue wrote:

>Hemingway's faithfulness to clean straight unembroidered lines of >prose,
>his dedication to less is more, and his determination to tell a >well
>paced, camera shot clear story, It's not tough to argue that >without
>Hemingway the hard-boiled school would be different and less, >and that the
>minimalists might not have happened at all. While some in >literaryland
>might see that as a blessing these days, I don't.

Though Chandler didn't like Hemingway, at least judging by the digs Marlowe takes at him in (I believe) "Farewell, my Lovely." I suppose with Chandler's fondness for the well-placed (and sometimes not so well placed) caused him to dislike the spareness of Hemingway's language; or maybe he was just jealous, possible too :).

I'm not wild about either minimalism or Hemingway (except "The Sun Also Rises," which reads a lot more like a book Fitzgerald would have written anyway) but I wouldn't dispute their importance. I wouldn't dispute the quality of Hemingway's craft, either, but for the most part his characters and particularly his subject matter leaves me cold. Perhaps one could read the influence of Hemingway and Chandler as twin traditions - sometimes converging, sometimes opposed - behind the contemporary crime novel. Hammett's lack of sentimentality (relative to Chandler) perhaps aligns him more closely with Hemingway?

I wouldn't discount Fitzgerald as a father of crime fiction, either. Gatsby certainly does have the crime element, as some have pointed out, though I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a crime novel (I would say that I can imagine exactly the same characters (Jordan Baker could be one of the Sternwood girls) and a very similar plot occurring in a crime novel, but Fitz's focus is elsewhere; the narrator, for one thing, is too much of an observer and too little of an agent which, unless you go back to Holmes and Watson, doesn't really fit with what I think of as the crime novel). Some of those extended party scenes - Nick's first trip to Myrtle's with Tom and almost everything that happens at Gatsby's - frequently echo for me in crime fiction "bender" scenes, from "The glass key" to Block to Crumley to Pelecanos. It's not the plot of Gatsby but something about the language and pacing that brings the crime writers to mind.


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