Re: RARA-AVIS: The definition of classics

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 04 Nov 2007

> No, no. These are genuine questions. The reason I
> asked is that the
> word "depth" does not convey a clear meaning to me
> (in literary, or
> more generally, in artistic questions).

What I meant by depth is that something is going on besides the obviousness of the plot. In the particular case I was suggesting that Greene has a more expansive and nuanced view of the world than say Spillane. Greene's Journeys Without Maps or In Search Of A Character shows that Greene works at his craft and his world view and the dimensions of the people in his books. Now, if you want to say that you like Spillane better, that's your beeswax and there is no response to that.

>And my
> question about
> intention was serious, too.

This is meant at face value. Spillane, Fleming, Clancy and Cussler intend to entertain, sell books and maybe make a movie deal. Greene has those same desires but I think -- and I'm positive that this can be supported
-- that The Quiet American, The Heart of the Matter, The Power and The Glory have an added dimension that Greene intended in his work. He had something that he believed to be real and sigificant to say (and you can disagree based on his political views or his self-deprecating statements) but Tom Clancy isn't writing anything such as The Comedians any time soon. To me, the intentional difference between I, The Jury and The Third Man is pretty obvious. Yes, he wrote entertainments and comedies but so did Shakespeare.

This isn't any kind of denigration of hard-boiled or noir or whatever. One of the reasons that I like Hammett is that he had the same delusions as Greene and it shows in his work. And I like a fun shoot'em up read as much as the next guy. But I can't be sustained by that alone . . .


Essays and Ramblings

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