Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction

Date: 07 Jan 2009

  • Next message: Brian Thornton: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction"

    I must say I'm finding the generalizations about Urban Fiction quite amusing. They seem to be almost identical to the dismissals of the roots, at least, of the lit this list is built around. It holds both the negative aesthetic judgements and the social outrage that were prompted by the pulps (particularly the shudder pulps), horror comics
    (Dr Wertham, anyone?) and, especially, Spillane. Boucher on Spillane:
    "ultimate degradation": San Francisco Chronicle on I, the Jury: "so vicious a glorification of force, cruelty and extralegal methods that the novel might be made required reading in a Gestapo training school"
    (both from Harold Schechter's Savage Pastimes: A Cultural History of Violent Entertainment).

    This smacks of the mass culture debates of the '50s, where pop culture
    (comics, paperbacks, TV, rock 'n' roll; all revered museum pieces by now) was alleged to be destroying the American way of life.

    Now Kevin, at least, you seem to be basing your judgements upon actually having read a few of these books, but are you reading them as would their target audience? Wouldn't these exaggerated, cliche, stereotypical bad black men resonate differently in that different cultural context? Basing my assumption more on friends I know who are big fans than any actual sales figures, isn't the primary audience for this genre black FEMALE? And isn't the emphasis (again, based on chats with fans, not having actually read them) of these books more on the black women who love men who have embraced these stereotypes than on the men themselves? If so, it'd make perfect sense that the men would be exaggerated stereotypes, just as bad boys are exaggerated in all chick lit.

    As I've tried to make clear, I'm largely unread in contemporary urban fiction, having read only a few by Jess Mowry (who targets himself more at young adults, albeit urban ones) and one by Kenji Jasper. So I do not know them well enough to have an informed opinion. I'll even admit the covers largely turn me off, too, and even the chats with fans haven't made them seem any more appealing to me, personally. It just strikes me how much the dismissals echo those prompted by the pulp fiction we canonize here.


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