“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

JC: Big Questions, Small Answers

There was a nifty little interview with John Connolly in the Atlanta Sunday Paper, in which JC (right) waxed philosophical on the profundity inherent in crime fiction. To wit:
“Crime fiction is a really conservative genre; there’s no miscegenation in crime fiction. And that’s really odd to me. If you read a lot of crime fiction, issues of redemption and salvation arrive again and again. And there’s a kind of possibility of a kind of spiritual interpretation as well: If we live in a godless universe, would you live a moral life?”
It’s a yes or no answer, folks, on the back of a used twenty to the usual address …

9 comments:

Josh Schrank said...

Not so fast GV. Morality is based on set of learned codes and social norms. Currently we in the west base most of our moral interpretations from various religious doctrine. If we then had no religion/god in which we can base those norms, our concept of 'being moral' would obviously change. Therefore, the best way to answer that is "yes, we would still be moral, or strive after morality, however our concepts of what is and is not moral would be drastically different than they are now." All one has to do is look to social and moral norms of ancient Rome prior to christianity. What was considered moral and normal then would be utterly barbaric to us now.

Declan Burke said...

So much for the 'one word' answer, eh? I take your point, Josh, but I beg to differ - I'd argue that religious doctrines base their morality on the kind of simple behavioral requirements a house / community / society needs in order to function, rather than the other way around. Take away the first Commandment, for example, and the remaining nine are just good advice for getting on with your friends, neighbours and family, as is most of Christ's preaching. As for Rome, it was a very civilised society; what we consider barbaric now was the exception rather than the rule. And morality long pre-dates the Roman empire, and even God, or gods ... Cheers, Dec

John McFetridge said...

Yes.

Okay, there's more of course. I don't see many differences from us and Rome. We may consider things barbaric, they still go on every day.

But for me, the most interesting things JC said was that crime fiction is really conservative. I think he's right, and I think it's too bad.

Josh Schrank said...

Dec, I would have to argue the point about Rome's morality/civility compared to its modern counterpart, but that isn't really the point I was trying to make. I like your view that religious canon is based upon the influence of what was needed to maintain the society. However, and this may just be a matter of symantics that I am getting stuck on, the orignal question was framed asking if religion/god(s) were not a factor in our existance, would we still be moral. The way I read your postulate, the question would have to have read something along the lines of, If we had no concept of morality, would we still have religion? In your point (which I think is dead on by the way), I read it as religion devleops based on sociological needs; to structure a group for the betterment of the whole. So in essence, it is the society that creates the concept of what is good and what is bad, not the dictums of a supreme being. The way I read Mr. Connolly's question, he is asking if the supreme being is taken out of the equation, would we still follow a set of standards. That would be a moot question if we try and answer it from the view that we have formed our own standards, and simply wrapped them in a 'god' label, wouldn't it?

Oh, I can take out all the spaces and make it one word if you want... :D And I agree with Mr McFetridge, it is a shame that it is so conservative. I think John Connolly's Charlie Parker needs to spend a weekend down in Dupont Circle...

Josh Schrank said...

erm... okay, so I should have used spell check before hitting publish your comment.

Declan Burke said...

Publish and be damned, Josh ... As for the morality malarkey - I think our codes of behaviour derived from the primal instinct for self-preservation and the rest is smoke and mirrors. Cheers, Dec

Josh Schrank said...

Publish and be damned.... ya know, that's what my first two divorce lawyers said after I signed.

Keith Rawson said...

I tend to disagree with Mr. Connolly on the overall conservatism of crime fiction. For the most part I find the genre to be morally ambiguous. Thompson, Goodis, Woolrich, Highsmith, Leonard, the novels they wrote (Or continue to write, as is the case with Mr. Leonard) largely dealt with individuals who crafted their own moral code where there is no redemption, there is no salvation and only pure animal survival. True enough that in most P.I. fiction these two themes of redemption and salvation are explored time and time again, which--in my opinion-- has zip locked and frozen the sub-genre into a near constant pastiche of Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald, etc.,

And as far as life in a godless universe would we as a society live a moral existence?

Answer: Morality is subjective and changes and shifts from age-to-age, generation-to-generation, just the same as the faces of God change from age-to-age.

On a far lighter note, Mr. Connolly is here in Phoenix, AZ reading tomorrow night, and I'm absolutely pumped to meet him.

Declan Burke said...

Keith - Believe it or not, I find it very difficult to argue with either of the points you've made there. I must be getting old ... Cheers, Dec