RARA-AVIS: New Everyman Cain collection

From: William Denton ( buff@pobox.com)
Date: 18 Jun 2003

Everyman's Library is putting out a new James M. Cain anthology this month or next: THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, MILDRED PIERCE, AND SELECTED STORIES, edited by Robert Polito. The stories are
"Pastorale," "The Baby in the Icebox," "Dead Man,' "Brush Fire," and "The Girl in the Storm." I've seen two reviews of this in the last week.

The first was in TORO, a glossy Canadian magazine that's of the kind that gets sent around with newspapers free a couple of times, then probably goes bankrupt. Andy Lamey reviews the anthology, and ends with this:

| He seems to fall into that overlooked category of author, of which
| children's literature provides the most examples, who find a last and
| posthumous audience despite offering little in the way of profundity.
| Aesop. The Brothers Grimm. Lucy Maud Montgomery. Arthur Conan Doyle.
| Dashiell Hammett. J.R.R. Tolkien. If we continue to read such writers,
| it is not for their "complexity and difficulty," but, rather, the
| pleasure of their stories. Perhaps we need to widen our view of
| posterity as one giant university library, and place alongside it
| a nursery and folklorist's archive. And a saloon. Inside of which,
| down by the bar, Jimmy Cain still sits with his feet on the rail,
| telling stories about killing.

I bet you don't think much of that, but you'll like Michael Tolkin's review in the 16 June issue of THE NATION. He has a deeper understanding of Cain and of writing in general, and he ranks Cain highly:

| Reading Cain again, I am surprised not that he holds up but that
| seventy years later, his prickly defensiveness seems like modesty.
| He's one of the great writers.

| It takes nothing away from POSTMAN and DOUBLE INDEMNITY to put them
| on the crime shelf, the honestly arranged shelf that would also
| include Dostoevsky and Highsmith.... But if we arrange by genre and
| not by alphabet, MILDRED PIERCE doesn't belong there. It's as good


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : http://www.miskatonic.org/ : Caveat lector.

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