Re: RARA-AVIS: European valuations of genre fiction

From: David Moran (
Date: 01 Feb 2004

J.A. Cuddon, in his "Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory" (great bathroom reading!), makes a good point about this. Brit & Euro critics are generally more welcoming of genre fiction than their American counterparts, but it only goes so far. "In Britain, P.D. James is thought fit to chair the judges' committee for the Booker Prize, yet it remains inconceivable that one of her own superb crime novels could win it." (quoted from memory, so it might not be 100% accurate, but close enough)

Incidentally, I've always thought that Chandler (no offense to your doctoral thesis--I'm sure it's stellar) was always kind of a poor example of the potential literariness of the genre. I used to adore Chandler myself, until I made the mistake of taking a graduate seminar exclusively about him. When I really looked at him that closely, I discovered, much to my teacher's dismay, how much I truly loathed him, how tedious he now seemed to me (it'd been almost a decade since I'd read anything of his).

"The Lady in the Lake" is indeed my favorite Chandler, though. I think that one still holds up quite well. Rotten movie, though. A nice experiment, but a rotten movie.

David Moran

Marc Seals wrote:

> > Marc, interesting comments on Brit professors on Chandler.
> > Were they equally inclusive of British crime writers?
> No, they were not.... Hmm. I had not thought of that. Perhaps they partially
> (or secretly) agreed with playwright and critic W. H. Auden, a self-admitted
> addict of detective stories, who wrote in his essay on detective fiction,
> "The Guilty Vicarage," that detective stories "have nothing to do with works
> of art." Auden excused Chandler from this condemnation by asserting that
> Chandler does not write detective stories at all, but rather "serious
> stories of a criminal milieu" that should be read and judged, not as escape
> literature, but as works of art." It seems a bit too convenient to reject
> detective literature as art, as Auden does, while at the same time removing
> the most respected mystery writers from the genre entirely.
> ~Marc
> -

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