Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: willie or not

Date: 10 Dec 2006

Patrick wrote:

"I'm speaking, for the most part, about so-called escapist entertainment. . . . 'We' may be discerning reader, able to analyze and examine the bigger picture behind stories designed for entertainment. But the people who make these books and films the huge successes they become tend not to think beyond their own sloping roofs."

Damn, a little elitist, eh? I refuse to believe that modern readers of escapist literature are not "discerning readers." And many of the classics in our genre are the escapist literature of their day -- Gold Medal, anyone? Regardless of the level of "discernment," no readers seek out books they expect to dislike. Readers of bestsellers may not discern in regard to the same elements niche readers do, but they are just as picky and sure of their reasoning as anyone else. And if it were so easy to satisfy that audience, why don't more writers do it? And why do so many who try to "sell out," as it is so often dismissed, fail?

On top of that, I refuse to believe that I get something qualitatively different out of a crime thriller than a less "discerning reader."

"If you want to sell millions of copies, it's better to let the reader fill in the more controversial aspects of a protagonist's life."

Where does this presumption of religion's being controversial come from? US culture is so steeped in religion, not just the morals, but the stories and symbolism of the Bible, that I can't see how an author could avoid it, either in the positive (as Jim has noted) or negative (as in one of John Evans's "Halo" books -- being cryptic to avoid a spoiler -- among many others).

And there's a huge difference between saying an author didn't care enough about his/her character's religion to focus on it and saying that that author actively avoided focusing on religion. I'd even go so far as to say that one reason a character's religion was not often underlined in crime novels of the first two-thirds of the century was because it was so assumed by authors and audience that "everyone" was Christian that it didn't require mentioning. Not mentioning the heroes were white during that period certaining didn't mean authors were avoiding race, just that it never occured to them that readers would think otherwise.

You're right that the influence of the Catholic Church on our popular culture, particularly film (from the Legion of Decency to Joe Breen's enforcement of the Production Code), but it certainly didn't influence against religion. In fact, it insisted upon a moral outcome based on Judeo-Christian precepts. As for the visibility of religion, not just its morals, Jim has already pointed out the huge population of priests and nuns in movies.


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