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

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 07 Jul 2004

At 05:44 PM 06/07/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>--- "Kerry J. Schooley" <>

>The creative juices are 'flowing', I think, everytime
>somebody new publishes a book in the genre.

Not if we're just going over the same turf.

> If enough
>new voices are published and heard, and if enough of
>them are good, the genre's healthy.

Of course, the question hinges on the notion of "good."

>In short, to the extent I understand you I don't agree
>with you: the genre doesn't need an "edge", it only
>needs quality.

I didn't know one disqualified the other.

I don't see an "edge" as some sort of fashion statement. I think of it as a creative edge, meaning the body of work advances into new areas, even if incrementally. Frankly, I think this is one of the many possible attributes of quality. Try to imagine it: re-writing The Maltese Falcon say, only somehow better, seems almost pointless. How would we define "better" in this context except as an advance of some sort?

>Again, I'm wary of these kind of generalizations (how
>can "the genre" have moral certitude?). As for us,
>well, these are all pretty well-read, intense fans and
>writers, you know. You're going to get strong

Sure, but did they respond to the criticisms with something more than their own vague generalizations? Some did, actually, and I thank them for that.

>You'd have to give me some idea of what you think
>constitutes positive advance in this area. I'm
>sympathetic to some extent to your point here, but
>it's hard to engage without some sense of what you
>think is worthy of note. Leave Ellroy out of it.



Yes, others have suggested ways in which they think O'Connell advances the language.

> Starr?

Tell me how you think he advances the language.

>As I've said, I don't think this is an interesting
>virtue. Engaged literature dates badly, and is beside
>the point of why I read anyway. That's not to say an
>author with a definite political pov couldn't be
>effective: you couldn't finish a Michael Collins book
>without knowing where he stood on the spectrum of his
>day. But the point is that, at the end of the day,
>Collins's best books will last not because they're
>critical of capitalism, but because they're fine
>stories that reveal something of the human heart.

But would they be published if they had little currency? Even Shakespeare pandered to his Elizabethan audience. I'd suggest quality work requires both, bringing universal themes and concepts to bear on more immediate contexts, often revealing fashionable issues to be quite durable. I thought I raised a couple of current issues that, with my admittedly limited knowledge, it seemed to me the genre (meaning those who write in the style) has yet to address with revealing insight. Did I miss the response?

>As I've gotten older I've gotten wary of literary
>theories, especially these kind of ur-theories. They
>tend to squeeze books into predetermined storylines,
>and at their worst they con authors into writing for
>the theory, instead of a reader.

I always thought it was a bit of a compromise: the author has something to say, but must find a way to make others want to read it, let alone accept any of it. Failure to do one or the other being another elusive attribute of quality.

Best Kerry

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

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