RARA-AVIS: Deconstructions

From: Mario Taboada ( matrxtech@yahoo.com)
Date: 22 Aug 2003

Somebody said that Altman attempted to deconstruct the classic PI, whose main symbol is Marlowe (please agree). Derrida's "method of deconstructions" consists in pointing out, or unveiling, unresolvable contradictions in binary oppositions, such as masculine-feminine, good guy-bad guy, heterosexual-homosexual, liberal-conservative, and so on.

Perhaps Altman did some of this by showing a different Marlowe, a more blended personality. Certainly there is nothing too outrageous in his version of Chandler's novel. Long before Altman, Norbert Davis had brilliantly deconstructed the classic PI, though Davis is now an obscure figure and his historical influence is close to zero.

As to writing in order to bury a genre, it can be done. Cervantes did it, most notably, with the chivalric genre -- however, the genre was already decaying, therefore ready for funereal caricature.

I believe Kurosawa attempted to deconstruct the Samurai, not once but many times. I think he succeeded, though, paradoxically, he made the (deconstructed) New Samurai popular throughout the world...

Monte Hellman and Arthur Penn (Little Big Man), and others in the following years, attempted similar deconstructions of the western, with artistic success but without totally killing the genre --it was and remains moribund but will likely take a long time to die.

Tom Wolfe, in his famous essay in the Herald Tribune, deconstructed the "New Yorker genre". The attack was devastating but did not bury the genre or the magazine. Open it today and you will still see languid stories about
"crossing glances at the Starbucks one afternoon", which
"reminded of my mother", "a sparrow came close as I was weeding the garden", and such and such again.

To want to bury is one thing, but genres don't die by decree. Even when people stop believing in them, they manage to survive. I, for one, am always ready to pick up a good PI novel, as long as it's a good read. The same for science fiction stories, or any kind of stories, even New Yorker stories (I feel generous, and Cheever did write for them).



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