RARA-AVIS: Geoffrey Gorer on James Hadley Chase

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 02 Jan 2005

Gorer's essay "The Erotic Myth of America" (1950) is extremely provocative. He says that French and English writers (Boris Vian and Chase are his examples, and so could Bertold Brecht be) saw the US as a kind of anarchistic no man's land where all kinds of sensual appetites are given their head, so to speak. Especially fascinating are those which conflate sex and money, and idolize the latter in order to blur the twisted frustrations the former present to Texas-sized venal and fragile egos. This is a myth, of course. Nothing since 9/11 could possibly give evidence of its validity, God knows, but only show the wisdom of our fearless leaders (from Bush-Cheney to Lieberman-Kristol)
  of just war against "haters" and "terrorists." That having been piously intoned, I think Gorer has a lot of value to say about Chase
(a.k.a. Rene Raymond). He writes of his ignorance of American geography, his female characters "always in heat," his absurd attempts at American slang, his "paste board characters," his focus on men torturing each other. He says the popularity of Chase's novels allow "fulfillment of deeply felt but furtive wishes. . . . American culture is thought to be the source of the imaginative sins which the readers of these books commit during their solitary orgies." As for Chase's models, Gorer cites Hemingway's To Have and To Have Not, and Chase's own Twelve Chinks and a Girl, as well as Faulkner.

I believe George Orwell liked No Orchids.

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