RARA-AVIS: "An Equivalent of the Femme Fatal"?

From: chrisaschneider@earthlink.net
Date: 11 Aug 2003

-------Original Message-------

From: Mark Sullivan < DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net> Sent: 08/11/03 02:00 PM To: rara-avis@icomm.ca Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: academic questions
> Mark Sullivan wrote:
>"Is there an equivalent of the femme fatale in crime novels featuring homosexual protagonists, a character who uses his/her sexuality to lead someone of the same sex to their destruction? I'm not nearly well read enough when it comes to gay crime writers to even begin to see patterns.



One example that comes to my mind is in James Purdy's sublimely strange "Narrow Rooms," with its central character known as "The Renderer." Of course the book is more "country noir" than a "crime novel," *per se* ...
From Paul Binding's introduction to the Gay Men's Press edition:
"Such a recognition" -- that unnamed forces are at work in the story's West Virginia community -- "makes glib judgement, moral or sociological, of, say, the driving cruelty of Roy Sturtevant (The Renderer) or of the beseeching masochism of Sidney De Lakes totally beside any point. Thus in considering Roy, the terrifying controller of the lives of all the main people of this book, we have to remember his parents -- his outcast father who killed himself; his gentle, adored mother who left him bereft at so early an age -- have to remember too the whole 'rendering' family from which he came and their calling, needed but not accepted by society. (To 'render' is to boil down carcasses for the making of lard.)"
Sidney returns from a stay in prison for manslaughter, The Renderer is waiting for him, and it all leads to what the back cover describes as "a shattering and powerful novel of sexual passion among among four men in a remote West Virginia mountain town."
As far as more conventional stories are concerned, there's always the individual who turns out to be the killer in Josh Lanyan "Fatal Shadows" (a likable book, if lightweight).
There's also, one might add, a case to be made for reading canonical *film noir* "Laura" as the story of Andrews caught between Gene Tierney (as "Good Girl") and Clifton Webb (as metaphorical "Bad Girl") ... Thus fetishized Webb, from his first scene where he talks to Andrews from a bathtub onward, could be read as the story's "homme fatal" -- or, at least, its object of odd provocation.


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