RARA-AVIS: Re: Mickey Spillane

From: Eric Chambers ( nqexile@yahoo.com.au)
Date: 03 Nov 2007

In a message dated Thu Nov 1, 2007 10:27 am (PST) Jim Doherty wrote,
 Re your reactions to Stephen's point below:
 "m-w.com's 1st definition makes sense to me: "writings
 in prose or verse;
 ************ ***
 "Yup. I'm familiar with the definition that includes
 I could be wrong, but I suspect that was Stephen's
 All writing written to be read by the general public,
 whether or not it actually turns out to be readable,
 whether or not it is actually published, is
 Some of it is bad. Most of it is probably average. A
 bit of it is good. A tiny bit falls into the category
 of "classic." And no one can tell what will be
 classic until, in the course of time, it turns out to
 be classic in retrospect.
 People who use "literature" when they mean "classic,"
 or at least "good," are being deliberately dismissive
 of that which they don't like or don't agree with,
 much like fundamentalist, evangelical protestants who,
 when they use "Christian," really mean only
 fundamentalist, evengelical protestants.
 The purpose of such usage is to diminish "the others"
 by making the broad category much more exclusive than
 it's meant to be. "This" isn't "real" literature.
 "They" aren't "real" Christians. This isn't "really"
 hard-boiled. That isn't "really" noir.
 MORAL: Don't say "literature" when you mean
  I regretfully started this dialogue with my comments on Spillane. I had no intention of being dismissive of Spillane. In fact I was pointing out that he has been an influential writer which means people read him and new work is being created which is influenced by him and that alone earns him respect as a writer. I didn' t mean classic and I certainly don't think Spillane's work is not good. I used the wrong word and I admit that. What I was trying to say is that there are different standards of prose in terms of simple prose quality. I enjoy writing for many things, plot and character and style being some of them. But the writing I enjoy most is prose that I can read over and over again because the writer picks and choses his words for reasons other than simply telling the plot. I can't pick up a Chandler,for instance, and browse it, and not reread the whole thing. Spillane creates a vibe and gets you into it but after you have finished it you are unlikely to re-read the book again with the same degree of pleasure . It's like drinking wine or listening to music.You can enjoy the bottle or the song on the music but some wine, some music some writing is on a higher level of craft. That's what I was trying to get at. I'll try again, "Spillane is an important and iconic writer but not neccessarily in the first echelon of prose writers."

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