RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

From: davividavid ( davividavid@yahoo.com)
Date: 24 Aug 2006

Kevin is so right. Realism is a narrative strategy, definitely in fiction, and even in non- fiction, since writing is representational and selective (comprised of poisons?). UC Prof. John Carlos Rowe has written smartly about realism as strategy in (fiction & non-fiction) representations of the Vietnam War, for anyone interested.

If Jacques' question is posed in relation to the difference between today's actual PI versus the actual PI of the 1930s-40s, it is a pretty interesting question. maybe today's successful PI is hosting the TV show "Cheaters"--or web hosting. I met a crime writer who spent decades working in a homicide dept. but i couldn't get into his books, so a search for the authentic in fashioning a detective seems to me less important than mastering the craft of good storytelling. still, good research partnered with good writing can help the popcorn go down easier.

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Kevin Burton Smith <kvnsmith@...> wrote:
> Jacques Debierue asked:
> > What exactly does the real present-day PI do? Surely he can't be doing
> > much "divorce work", or chasing the proverbial "missing daughter"?
> > Does he even drink or want to? Does he have or need an office, or does
> > he work from home and his SUV? Who hires him?
> >
> > I ask these things because life has changed so much since the classic
> > era of the PI with bottle, pretty and/or motherly secretary, hostile
> > cops (except for one who remains grudgingly loyal), etc. etc.
> Well, you do realize it was always a fantasy, right?
> Fiction is not real life. Fiction has to make sense of some sort.
> Real life doesn't operate under those restrictions.
> Even Hammett's so-called "realism" was pretty much a romanticized and
> tidied-up version of life in the Pinks (a quick perusal of his
> article "From the Memoirs of a Private Detective" is mostly tall
> tales and bullshit), just as Chandler's take was a romanticized
> version of the lone wolf operator.
> Despite the claims of "realism," most hard-boiled fiction is every
> bit as much of a fictional construct as the rosiest of cozies -- it's
> just that the disbelief is suspended in another area. When reading
> fiction, we always have to suspend a certain amount of disbelief --
> some genres may ask us to suspend more disbelief than others, but
> ultimately all genre preferences simply boil down to which poisons
> and how many of them we're willing to swallow.
> But who cares if the trappings have changed? In Hard-Boiled Land, the
> cops are still hostile and daughters still go missing. Fortunately,
> the streets are just as mean as they ever were. And whether he's got
> a cellphone in his pocket or a pencil and notebook, and an iBook back
> at the office or a long-suffering secretary, eventually, down those
> mean streets a man must go. Even if he's a woman. Or gay. Or black.
> Or even -- GASP!!! -- non-American.
> So yeah, the bits and pieces may change and the detective himself may
> not be your grandfather's detective, but some things never change.
> Justice must still be done, and one person can make a difference, if
> they're hard enough and true enough.
> So whether it's Marlowe looking for yet another lost young girl,
> Archer probing into some 40-year old family scandal or some new kid
> on the block looking into some fake AIDS drug scam or a missing rap
> musician , a lot of people will be willing to follow the detective.
> Actual realism isn't the driving factor for fiction -- it's the
> illusion of reality (peppered with an occasional universal truth)
> people buy into.
> I mean, God help a world where there are adults who actually think
> something like I, THE JURY is "realistic." I recently re-read it in
> prep for a local mystery readers group I moderate, and I tell ya, I
> ended up shaking my head in disbelief so many times my neck is sore.
> I, THE JURY is as convoluted and artificial as any cozy ever written.
> But what the hell -- it's still a great read!
> Pure popcorn, as the Mick might say.
> Kevin Burton Smith
> The Thrilling Detective Web Site
> http://www.thrillingdetective.com

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