RARA-AVIS: Re: Vian and America

From: Gonzalo Baeza (gbaeza@gmail.com)
Date: 09 Dec 2008

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    I find it interesting that Vian's book would generate such a reaction. I guess it's fine if someone doesn't like it on its own merits (or lack thereof, I haven't read it myself) but I wouldn't take its anti-Americanism seriously. It's not as if other genre books of the time didn't abound in stereotypes (Orientals as sadistic or Blacks as primitive or comic relief characters) as well as inaccurate depictions of foreign locales (the Orient as mysterious, Latin America as a place where everyone lives in huts, etc.). The same goes for the censorship charges. America was also censoring books at the time and many countries in Europe do it to this day on account of their anti-discrimination laws.

    Come to think of it, a lot of crime fiction (print, TV or film) still dwells on those ignorant, provincial stereotypes. Mexico is almost always depicted as a Third World hellhole of corruption and drug trafficking (and I have no doubt many authors believe that it is all there is to the country) and when characters speak in Spanish the dialogue doesn't ring true and/or is plagued with grammatical errors. Just as many of Vian's French readers probably believed that his depiction of America was relatively accurate, I imagine many contemporary readers also swallow these other stereotypes without questioning their validity.

    Vian's book was widely published, among other things, because he was a successful mainstream author. "I Spit..." is what a snobbish critic would call an "entertainment." The fact that it was authored by a
    "respectable" author gave it the notoriety that an unknown writer would have never gotten had he published a similar book. It seems to me that "I Spit..." could be considered a precursor to all those books and especially movies that use pop culture conventions in an "ironic" manner and are lauded as a clever subversion of the codes of a minor genre. Every review I've read describes it as over the top if not a straight parody.


    --- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, "jacquesdebierue"
    <jacquesdebierue@...> wrote:
    > And in our own genre, nobody has a better ear than our own Bill
    > Crider. Perfect pitch.
    > Best,
    > mrt

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