Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Munger on violence

From: Kerry Schooley (
Date: 02 Sep 2003

At 03:29 PM 01/09/2003 -0700, Kevin Burton Smith wrote:

>There's nothing particular literary or ground-breaking about gratuitous
>offensiveness. It's usually the sign of a weak writer, not a strong one.
>I'd rather a writer try to mess with my head, not my gag reflex.
>And in the never-ending quest to nail down definitions, here's a thought:
>It isn't violence itself that makes a book hard-boiled. It's the attitude
>towards that violence that makes it hard-boiled.

Yes, by definition good writers do it better than bad writers and violence for violence sake is boring, but I think this oversimplifies. I mean, the use of violence and its moral implications is one of the genre's major themes. And surely one of the points of at least some authors who portray extreme acts of violence (by the way, what makes violence extreme and where is the threshold relative to acceptable depictions of violence?) is that such depictions should be offensive, and often are not so perceived in the wider world, or at least not enough.

Isn't it one of our most challenging ironies that people will challenge the depiction of extreme violence, but encourage the practice of state-sanctioned violence? Isn't it understandable that an author might be tempted to shock readers out of such complacencies with even more awesome depictions of extreme violence?

Of course, writers may not do it well, but I think we'd be wrong to assume that the depiction of extreme violence automatically means the writer is untalented. The question is, do such depictions have intrinsic value, and I suspect the answer might, even after weighing the reasonable nays, be yes.

Best, Kerry, who'd rather read about extreme violence than be subjected to it.

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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