RARA-AVIS: _New Yorker_ article on crime fiction around the world

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 03 Apr 2007

"Blood on the Borders" by a patronizing Clive James (9 April issue) describes mystery writing as a genre that is fun and easy to read--not, of course, to be taken as "serious writing" (like the most pretentious genre of all time, the New Yorker short story??). He quotes Chandler's
"down these mean streets a man must go..." as making you "want to read on." But the statement was from an essay not a novel. Simenon was a great model for those who give the crime novel "its aspiration to seriousness." Which of course it does not deserve. But those who do not use PI's like Maigret, sez James, cannot write enough books to get consideration (by critics like James) as artists. James does not seem to know of Simenon's "roman durs," but he has read plenty of Donna Leon's Brunetti novels, because his younger daughter likes the writer. Sooo nice of him to get down to her level. The rest of the article deals with how the genre can be good as a kind of travelogue (based on the cities favored by the writers). Rankin's Edinburgh is a better setting that Glasgow; it looks better although Glasgow is tougher. Quoting a few phrases from recent writers he thinks he is sensitive enough to expose as silly, snotty Clive sniffs, "those are the kind of moments that make real writers wonder if they shouldn't go into the crime-fiction business and run up a score."
    He's just too witty to be anything but precious, is Clive James, a dilettante in at least 4 genres: poetry, essay, fiction, and non-fiction. You just /must/ have heard of him.

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