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May 21, 2007

Meet Ed

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Ed Gorman has a tasty-sounding new mystery out. Haven't read it myself, but the reliable Bruce Grossman is enthusiastic.

Ed Gorman runs a feisty, companionable, and smart blog here. Don't miss recent Ed postings about a couple of legendary gal fiction-writers: Margaret Millar and Marijane Meaker (aka Vin Packer). This posting about the haunting and poetic David Goodis is a special gem. Great Ed line: "The physical settings may change but usually you have the same man -- i.e., David Goodis -- trying to survive being himself for at least another twenty-four hours." Now that's some first-class literary criticism.

Recently, Ed ran a two-part article about the amazing Charles Williams by Ed Lynskey: here and here. Lynsky reports in his excellent piece that, for Maxim Jakubowski, Charles Williams is "an American classic," and that, for Max Alan Collins, Williams is "the best-kept secret in ... noir fiction." I'll second and third those opinions. I raved about Charles Williams myself not so long ago.

This may be nothing but gratuitous point-scoring on my part, but I can't resist mentioning that, while it isn't unusual to run into sweet-natured and big-hearted people in the crime-fiction field, I've run into much less in the way of generosity and directness during my explorations of the literary world.



UPDATE: In the Prospect, Julian Gough asks "what's wrong with the modern literary novel?" (Link thanks to ALD.) For Gough, the answer has to do with writers' tendency to overemphasize the tragic vision at the expense of the comic vision. My own small contribution to this discussion: Perhaps it also comes down to goals and personalities. Writers of narrative (and genre) fiction are generally trying to craft accessible and rewarding entertainments that can be enjoyed by regular folks, while many creators of lit fiction are doing their best to show off for an audience of editors, critics, profs, and other lit-fict authors.

posted by Michael at May 21, 2007


Ed Gorman's blog is great (and he's an excellent writer in his own right). He is a treasure trove of information on classic crime authors, including obscure yet excellent ones like David Goodis and Dan J. Marlowe. His blog also has an interesting post on the upcoming Stark House "three-fer" reprinting three classic Gold Medals.

Posted by: GB on May 21, 2007 2:15 PM

I don't know if I buy that line about literature today overemphasizing the tragic as opposed to the comic vision. That may be true as far as the awarding of prizes is concerned. But there are plenty of 'comic' novelists out there, most of them even more painfully serious than the tragic ones, at heart.

I put 'comic' in qtn marks because, you know, I'm seldom much amused by anything that comic writers like Martin Amis, so highly praised by Gough, have to say. I don't deny he has genius of a sort. It just isn't the kind I much enjoy. I cannot read his novels. I prefer Rushdie's comic writing, which does occasionally make me laugh.

I once read a London Times review of Amis in which the reviewer said that the dominant tone of Amis's books was disgust at life in the flesh, and that Amis seemed to think he could achieve literary immortality without putting in his time as a human being first. Which is exactly my feeling about the man.

The best attack on today's writing that I've yet to read was by B.R. Myers in The Atlantic (July 2001). Sample: 'Today any accessible, fast-moving story written in unaffected prose is deemed to be "genre fiction"—at best an excellent "read" or a "page turner," but never literature with a capital L.'

Posted by: alias clio on May 21, 2007 3:13 PM

B.R. Myers’ critique on the state of mainstream fiction is excellent. I was actually wondering why hadn’t anybody brought that Atlantic Monthly article up or, for that matter, Myers’ book expanding on the essay and answering some of the more vicious criticism it inspired from publications such as the NY Times (including the one that claimed he had no “stake in the [American] literary establishment” given how he was supposedly foreign-born and lived in New Mexico).

His book is a great read and it’s easily available at any Borders or B&N. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on DeLillo, his analysis of some of the author’s more turgid prose passages and how critics fawn over what in many cases is nothing but his pedestrian observations on lame duck targets like American consumerism. As I said, I am surprised Myers’ book hasn’t been mentioned before given this blog’s extended discussion on mainstream and genre fiction.

Since we are on that subject, I think that if Michael is planning to write another installment on his series, he should also take a look at Galen Strawson and his discussion of narrative and non-narrative writers. I think it is in many ways similar to the argument claiming genre fiction tends to privilege story elements such as plot whereas “literary” fiction does not.

Dry academic tomes, however, aren’t the only place where you can find lively discussions of the genre/mainstream fiction divide. Curt at the “Groovy Age of Horror” blog recently wrote a series of posts on “high” and “low” culture that echo a number of your Michael’s ideas on the subject as developed here at 2 Blowhards. You can check it out ">here.

Posted by: GB on May 21, 2007 4:09 PM

Goals I think probably hew pretty close for both. Personality though probably differs wonderfully from literary fiction.

Posted by: Brian Hadd on May 21, 2007 4:34 PM

Umm...I have this embarrassing personal problem. You see, the Brazilian novelist Ryoki Inoue is recognised as the world's most prolific writer, by far. He's written well over a thousand books in the last 20 years. I happened to get hold of a copy of one his his pulpy hits, "A Bruxa", and I've been reading it. Well, you see, it's like this: I'm finding that I, er, quite like it. Obviously, there something wrong with me, and with Inoue, and with the millions of Brazilans that soak up this stuff by the truck-load. It's just that I keep flipping those pages, and my fingers are hurting.

This never happened when I was reading Marquez: the pages hardly moved!

Posted by: Robert Townshend on May 22, 2007 1:18 AM

Next, try Colombian writer Alvaro Mutis' The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll (NYRB publishers). Another good read that's both pulpy and literary.

Posted by: GB on May 22, 2007 8:57 AM

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