RARA-AVIS: Re: The definition of literature

From: jimdohertyjr ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 07 Nov 2007


Re your response to my message:

> > SLEEP,
> They created the genre. And everybody has been
> imitating them ever since.

The genre is "mystery fiction," or, if you prefer, "crime fiction," and Hammett and Chandler didn't even come close to inventing it. Poe beat 'em by eighty or ninety years.

At best, you could assert, with a degree of credibility, that Hammett and Chandler invented the SUB-genre of the hard-boiled private eye, and even that's not the case.

Carroll John Daly beat Hammett by only a few months, but he DID beat him. He had two PI stories, "Three-Gun Terry" and "Knights of the Open Palm," in print months before Hammett's "Arson Plus" was published. Daly also wrote the first full-length PI novel, THE SNARL OF THE BEAST, which was appeared between boards about a year before Hammett's first novel, BLOOD MONEY, was even serialized, and about three years before RED HARVEST came out in hard covers.

Now, had Daly never existed, and his detective-hero, Race Williams, never appeared in a story, it's quite likely that Hammett would have created the Continental Op anyway. I've often argued that myself. But first is first, and Daly WAS first. Moreover, a lot of the tropes we now associate with the hard-boiled private eye were Daly created. Daly's influence on later writers like Spillane, Prather, Avallone, etc, is undeniable. One could make a case that his influence has been at least as far-reaching as Chandler's and farther reaching than Hammett's.

But even allowing that Hammett and Chandler DID invent the hard- boiled PI, that wasn't inventing a new genre, that was introducing a change into a genre that already existed.
> > convince
> > you?
> I don't think it's a genre book. That's what you don't
> get.

Which just goes to show that anytime a genre book impresses the intellectual elite with its literary excellence, they immediately conclude that it must not have really been a genre book at all. It must have "transcended the genre," because no genre book could be THAT good.

Thanks for proving my point.
> > How
> > about Meyer Levin's COMPULSION?
> That's bogus. It's a great subject but not a great
> book. It's indicative of squat in this conversation.
> And it's also true of others that you mention. If
> can't make a compelling argument, then dazzle them
> with pointless details.

Translation: I really can't knock down any of the other examples with solid arguments, so I'll just dismiss them as "pointless details," and suggest that Doherty's doing a rhetorical sleight of hand. That way it will look like he's the one who can't come up with a compelling argument instead of me.

> Yes. But since you never actually read what I write,
> I'm not surprised.

Translation: Once it becomes clear that I've lost the argument, accuse my opponent of not clearly understanding what I was saying in the first place.


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