RARA-AVIS: Re: Urban Fiction

From: JIM DOHERTY (jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 08 Jan 2009

  • Next message: Terry Sanford: "RARA-AVIS: Michigan P. I.'s"


    Re your comments below:

    "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)."

    Your post reminded me that at least one of the criticisms Kevin makes about the "urban fiction" he's read, that its characters are the sort of one-dimensional ethnic stereotypes that white writers could never get away with, was made by Anthony Boucher, back in the '50's, about a writer named Chester Himes.

    I haven't read any of the books under discussion, so I can't offer an opinion about their merits. Sometimes what seems to be meretricious crap really is meretricious crap, and contemporary critics are able to see that right from the start. Sometimes what seems to be meretricious crap fools you and turns out, in retrospect, to be far more worthwhile than anyone believed they could be when they were first thrust upon the public.

    Spillane lasted. And Boucher even came around in the end to become something of a Spillane fan. Himes lasted. And Boucher eventually started giving him positive reviews, too.

    We just won't know for sure about urban fiction for at least another few decades. If it lasts, Kevin may still hate it, as Brian still hates Spillane, but it will have proved itself, as Spillane did, by passing the test of time. Perhaps a lousy test, but still the best we have.



    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 08 Jan 2009 EST