RARA-AVIS: Re: John D.

From: Kevin Burton Smith (kvnsmith@sbcglobal.net)
Date: 18 Oct 2009

  • Next message: Jeff Vorzimmer: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: John D."

    On Oct 18, 2009, at 2:26 AM, rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com wrote:

    > I agree with Tom Armstrong about John D. MacDonald. MacDonald must
    > be a
    > writer who has significance mainly to the American readers, since he
    > doesn't
    > resonate with me at all, and I know I'm not the only Finnish reader
    > who
    > feels the same.

    Maybe. But I'm not American, and I enjoy him.

    > Apart from the cheap paperback publishers, he's had very few
    > Finnish translations - I think only one from a big publisher, while
    > Ross
    > Macdonald (to pick up a writer I very much admire) had almost all of
    > his
    > sixties and seventies books translated in here.

    Given how alternately nepotistic and fragmented and just plain wacko publishing is, it may not necessarily be any indication of anything except networking, availability of rights and voodoo mojo to explain why a press picks up a foreign book. And it gets even hinkier when it's a foreign language book.

    For a while Australian Peter Corris' books, for example, were published in North America. Now they're not. George Pelecanos was out of print in the U.S. and only published in the U.K. Then he wasn't. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a world-wide hit, and I'll wager there are several Swedish books just as (or almost as) good that will never be translated.

    But I agree that there was something quintessentially American about JDM's books. Particularly the McGees. Maybe they don't do well in Europe because McGee's America wasn't often the mythic, larger-than- life America, with all its awesome glory and its iconic faults, that many Europeans go for so readily, but a far less epically romantic and more banal America of the strip mall and junk food and obese suburbanites. Sure, McGee disdained most of it, but he was also part of it, and most of his critiques of U.S. society were never quite as savage and pointed as they might have been. Perhaps that's why McGee wasn't as popular in Europe as he was in his own country.

    It's easier to play make believe on the "mean streets" of New York and LA and Boston and Chicago -- and sell it abroad. It reinforces the myths and stereotypes. MacDonald tried to do something else.

    Hmmm... I wonder how INHERENT VICE's sentimental (and quintessentially American) diatribes are playing overseas?


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