“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.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Stark Raven Love

Author and blogger Lyman Feero (right) locates himself Somewhere Between a Raven and the Universe, from which vantage point he took aim at yours truly’s recent mini-Crime Carnival post on how the interweb might well provide the setting for a comprehensive critical evaluation of crime / mystery fiction.
  Lyman has first-hand experience of how genre fiction is treated in the hallowed halls of academia, and thus has plenty to say worth reading, with one snippet running thusly:
“However, sidestep into the American Studies, History and Pop Culture departments and you'll find something completely different … The programs that grow writers and offer lofty speeches on the value of a piece of written works are not the source for genre validation. The people who study genres and offer up theories on how the works fit into their genres are theorists, sociologists, psychologists, who all see the value of the craft. They are the ones that can provide that analysis. They are the ones to catch up the mystery / crime’s analysis backlog. The analysis will be more meaningful, tying the writing more closely to its social relevance, its place in history, its rote validity. Genre theorists know more about the nature of popular writing than most English faculty members ever dreamed.”
  Trust me, this is worth five minutes of your time

6 comments:

Lyman Feero said...

Thanks for the nod, Declan. Genre theory and the severe lack of critical work on the genres have always been passions for me.

To be quite honest, I find it astounding that what could be arguably called the oldest genre (mystery)and its subgenres have received so little attention comparatively. (I must add that the Fantasy genre, even with it's wild popularity these days, has received strikingly little as well.)

It's a hard game. Our readers don't look at our works analytically in general. If the genre is disrespected academically then there's little focus on it in the classroom, thus little focus on it when it comes to thesises and dissertations. If we ever want to see the "philosophical" attention that our works deserve, we as writers need to make that part of our craft (not as an influence but as an understanding).

I should add, to avoid confusion, that I'm not speaking about every professor who makes an English or Letters department their home when I mention Academia. My mentor and long time friend, Dr. Welsh Everman, was a writer and professor of American Literature. He showed me the value of writing genre for entertainment but also the internal and social value of understanding how what we write plugs into the big picture of human ecology. If I'd been better geographically situated I probably would have followed him by getting a Ph.D. in a field that promoted genre theory than my MFA in Creative Writing.

Declan, not by a long shot should you let your points go by the wayside. The internet has the potential to be this generation of writers' Madrid, Paris, London or Prague. I may not be able to sit beside the Mediterranean for a summer with five of my fellow writers and pass on the reasons why I write what I do, but I can look over a few blogs in the morning and post questions and respond to those posed to me. You're definitely on the right track. There just needs to be a way to make it a little more formal.

John McFetridge said...

Lyman, will you be at Bouchercon?

Lyman Feero said...

John, unfortunately I won't be. I'd feel a bit out of place having really only one short and a couple of flash pieces published in crime fiction. I'm just a wee pup when it comes to the mean streets. Stick me on an alien planet or a dark foggy moor and I'm an old hand.

John McFetridge said...

Declan, I'm looking up Duxbury, MA on Google Maps right now, but I have a feeling it isn't on the tour route - oh well.

Lyman, is there never a crime on one of these alien planets or foggy moors? Genre crossover is fine, isn't it?

Lyman Feero said...

John, Such a loaded question. Have you been taking lessons from Ms. Ruttan or vice versa. Funny how I stepped right into that trap. I like to think my own writing is genre crossover, so for my writing career I better hope it's fine.

Guess that means I'll have to come clean on my non-attendance, I'm terminally shy and a bit broke at the moment. But if ever there was a crowd to hang around with, you mystery/crime folks seem to be the most welcoming to neophytes.

Declan Burke said...

Lyman - "The internet has the potential to be this generation of writers' Madrid, Paris, London or Prague. I may not be able to sit beside the Mediterranean for a summer with five of my fellow writers and pass on the reasons why I write what I do, but I can ..."

Can I stop you there? Let's not say another word on the subject until we're all sitting beside the Med.

And I wouldn't worry about the 'shy' thing. Sure everyone's shy. And the crime fic folk are the friendliest going, bizarrely enough ...

Cheers, Dec