RARA-AVIS: Re: Spillane and misogyny

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 14 Jul 2006


Re your comments below:

"An argument that contends that Enid Blyton's work is
'literature' but David Goodis's isn't, is one which isn't going to convince me. The same argument would state that Goodis was 'literature' in France, but not in the UK/US. Baffling."

The point isn't really whether or not the "test of time" is or isn't a valid gauge for measuring literary worth, but whether it's a democratic one, in the metaphorical sense that Miker used the term.

Lord knows there've been plenty of instances in the history of democracy (as a literal political system, not as a critical literary measure) in which the wrong leader was chosen or the wrong policy implemented. Hitler, after all, originally came to power through an election.

Similarly, there are probably all sorts of instances of worthy writers who haven't stood the test of time
(or, like Goodis, have stood that test only in a
"fringe" or "cult" sense), and writers who may not be worthy of being remembered at all, to the degree such a thing as literary worth can be objectively measured
(Kerry argues, quite convincingly, that it can't be), who have stood the test of time quite successfully.

It doesn't make the "test of time" less democratic, in Miker's sense, just less reliable.

"As for the democracy metaphor: what's being described isn't democracy, it's majoritarianism. Any successful democracy strives to treat its minorities with respect. Ditto with literature."

To get into a discussion of the difference between
"democracy" and "majoritarianism," or the difference between "successful" and "failed" democracies, is to take this discussion far from its original subject.

The point is, that it WAS a metaphor, and a metaphor is a descriptive device used to illustrate something in a colorful way that aids understanding, not to give a literal definiton. To use a fairly familiar instance, when Hammett describes the melodramatic events in a novel the Continental Op is reading to pass the time as "real as a dime," he doesn't mean the events actually took place, nor that they have the substance that actual coin of the realm has, nor even, come to that, that all dimes are absolutely real, and never counterfeit. He is simply using the imagery to describe how convincing the events SEEMED to the Op as he read the novel.

Similarly, when Miker says that the "test of time" is a democratic gauge of literary worth, he is suggesting that it is a gauge in which success is largely measured by continued popularity.


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