Re: RARA-AVIS: Someone who doesn't like Pelecanos

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 05 Jul 2004

At 02:34 PM 05/07/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>The assumptions behind your question "has the genre
>lost its edge" are fascinating. To begin with, does
>the genre need an "edge" to be successful?

I'd say yes. An edge assumes the genre is evolving, the creative juices still flowing in response to the ideas, issues, themes implicit to the form. This would be to stay relevant with the times, though change can also lead to irrelevancy too, of course. Not to say that we can't enjoy some entertaining nostalgia, but if that is all that's on offer then I'd suggest the lack of an edge indicates a genre is, in fact, in decline.

Let's take the boys' discontent with Leonard for example, and Pagan Babies? They weren't explicit, but what did Leonard have to say about Rwandan genocide except that it was, you know, bad? Any real comparison/contrast of the tribalism of Detroit criminal gangs to that of the Tutsis and Hutus of central Africa, or the clans of the former Yugoslavia? Anyone else, in this genre, writing about this stuff?

>I'm not sure what you're criticizing about the
>discussions here: I've been on this list since the
>late nineties and the quality of the discussions have
>remained consistently high. Elucidate?

I think so too, and maybe I'm being a bit oversensitive, but I'm wondering if the genre, and some of our discussions, haven't taken on a tone of moral certitude of late.

>I read the interview and thought it was pretty dumb,
>but not something to get worked up over.

The criticisms were fairly broad, but I thought they had some relevance. A number of Rara-Avians made what appeared to me to be defensive responses, to the format of the interview, to the fact that the interview participants weren't as widely read as one might hope, to the very idea that the current genre gods might be hollow, even to the notion that an "edge" might be of value (except Mark Sullivan.)

But, broad as they were, hardly anyone responded directly to the criticisms: specifically that the genre is not advancing its creative language (as it did at first, with the hardboil vernacular) except Ellroy who may or may not be a singular, spent force, or that the genre is not contributing much to current public debate.

For instance (to the latter point) is there any publication in the genre that brings anything new to the issue of child sexual molestation? I think Kevin Smith raised a similar point a few weeks back, but no one responded. Yet I'm certain there's a lot more to this than that this is the ultimate evil (why do we rate our crimes on a score-card?) and the perps are monsters (yet in western society we exploit our children dozens of different ways, including for indirect sexual gratification) to be exterminated (often just for thinking about the acts, not necessarily for performing them.)

Similarly the current paranoia over terrorism. Anything other than
"terrorist bad, me good, or worse- innocent?" I haven't seen much recently about this subject at all in our genre, but maybe I'm missing something. So I'm asking. Too dangerous politically to garner a mass audience, do you think?

Best Kerry

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