Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: The definition of literature

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 06 Nov 2007

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:

> Few here would suggest, for example, that THE
> FALCON or THE BIG SLEEP are examples of something
> separate and distinct from a private eye novel, that
> THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD is something other
> than a spy novel [. . .]

Separate? Perhaps not. Distinct? Without question. The above statement seems to rely on a credible-by-association argument that is a tad falacious. It says that The Maltese Falcon is a good book, it's a good genre book and it's a good genre book because all the books in the genre are good and if someone would only read all the books in the genre, one would realize that. That argument doesn't sway me. It doesn't sway me when it's used with classical music or jazz and it doesn't sway me when it's used with say Orson Welles movies. The fact is, to stay within the list's realm, The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep are exceptional in structure, device, style, and any number of other elements and few other books in the genre have come close to appealing to an audience wider than those stuck in the genre. The same notion applies when Graham Greene is painted as a genre writer because he wrote novels with spies or assassins. If we can call Graham Greene a genre writer, we can "legitimize" every hack and copycat that has turned out a PI novel or spy novel or crime novel.

I don't give a rat's patootie about the genre. It's the stuff that satisfies me on some level that I want to read and pursue. Some do care and they'll chase every forgotten writer to read every word they ever wrote. My hat is off to them and I understand the drive that sends them. God speed and good luck in the dusty shelves and the online catalogs.

This worst thing that ever happened to the Beats is that universities found something valuable in accepting them as tenured in our culture.

Ah, hell. What's the point? If you can't see how The Maltese Falcon is distinct from the genre, then I doubt anything I can say here will change that . . .


Essays and Ramblings

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