Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 07 Jan 2009

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction"


    I take your general point, but I just have to chime in here as someone who likes HB/Noir and reads it, both the old and the new, that I don't see where an interest in the literature in general connotes some sort of acceptance of that sub-set's canon "en toto."

    After all, I'm a huge fan of Hammett, Chandler, MacDonald, Connelly (took me a while to get past CITY OF BONES, but I managed to), Bruen, Starr, Guthrie, Swiercynski, Prather, Dan J. Marlowe, Holmes, Cain, Woolrich, et. a;., but that doesn't mean that I'm going to like all of it, or think its "equally valid" as literature, even if I don't get it. That sort of statement strikes me as something best left to a Lit PhD.s dissertation defense (as should often be the case with discussions that revolve around some moral equivalency paradigm).

    I find Spillane unreadable (Doherty and I have fought this battle, no need to go over that ground again, Jim), Daly to be laughable, and several others mostly forgettable.

    On the other hand, good for the authors of "urban" niche fiction for finding a receptive audience, and being able to make some money doing it. That doesn't mean that their stuff is on a level commensurate with that of even HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, or for that matter, anything by the prodigiously talented Toni Morrison.

    All the Best-


    On Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 12:23 PM, <> wrote:

    > 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.
    > Mark

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