RARA-AVIS: Re: Political Thrillers

From: jacquesdebierue (jacquesdebierue@yahoo.com)
Date: 23 Aug 2008

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    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, Tim Wohlforth <timwohlforth@...> wrote: There are references in the book to hundreds of
    > novels and writers. Much of the analysis is tendentious and labored,
    > yet his effort to see the evolution of the crime novel within the
    > context of the changes in society as a whole, is a worthy one.
    > For example, he sees the classic detective story of Agatha Christie,
    > Sayers, etc., as reflecting "the triumphant rentier ruling class of
    > the pre- and post-1914 period in the Anglo-Saxon countries" resulting
    > in treating crime as "schematic, conventional and artificial." A
    > retreat "from the streets into the drawing room." He did not like
    > "serie noire" which he identifies with Spillane. He saw the
    > "violence, brutality, cruelty, sadism" in such novels as a reflection
    > of a sick society: they were phenomena of social decomposition."
    > He concludes "The history of the crime story is a social history, for
    > it appears intertwined with the history of bourgeois society itself.
    > And finally "perhaps...bourgeois society is, when all its said and
    > done a criminal society." Mandel, whose book Late Capitalism created
    > quite a sensation in the days of the New Left, passed away in 1995.

    A very worthy writer, although his style is labored. He touches upoon a lot of relevant stuff. To me, it's clear that the genre we love so much is completely intertwined with bourgeois society. Some of the authors, notably Chandler, were acutely aware of this even as they were writing their stories and novels. What is Chandler if not a social critic of the society in Southern California? Hammett does not come out so explicitly, but it's there. Today, you find the same critical spirit in Pelecanos, Mosley, Connelly and countless other authors.

    Perhaps the question would be, more properly, which hardboiled or noir writer today is NOT acutely aware of the crisis and of what is going on in society? I cannot name a single one among those I read. It seems to me that good American literature post-Twain rarely falls into innocent escapism. Those pulp stories are loaded with dead accurate social observations. And American humorists are notoriously scathing as social critics. So it all fits.



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