Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Chandler, Hammett and Fleming: Get Real

Date: 06 Mar 2008

Mario wrote:

"One can only speculate as to the "realism" of a story. How can a typical reader know?"

I've often thought this about prison novels. For instance, the cover of Mitchell Smith's Stone City excerpted a review that said something like it was one of the most realistic depictions of prison ever written. And I thought, how would the reviewer know unless he had been to prison? Now assuming he hadn't, his standard of the realism was based on other things he had read, just like mine is. And Stone City did seem to corroborate the impression of other books I'd read, both fiction and nonfiction from Eddie Bunker, Jack Henry Abbott, etc, but what carried the book was its consistency of treatment, of both actions and psychology. That's what gave the book its apparent verisimilitude.

On the other hand, a lot was made of the fact that Platoon was directed by an actual Viet Nam vet. Did that make it more realistic than other films on that war (sorry, police action)? Not being a vet myself, I have no direct knowledge, but I found the movie far too literary and steeped in heavyhanded symbolism to take seriously as realism. Young impressionable soldier is torn between following the good leader and the bad. And scar aside, in Stone's world, you knew which one was good because he smoked dope. Please.


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