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Re: P. D. James on Have His Carcase (1932), by Doorhty L. Sayers: Fair Criticism?

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  • jeffrey1marks
    My thought is that James set up her thesis and now is trying to force fit the novels she has selected into her thesis. This is fairly common in literary
    Message 1 of 8 , Jun 4, 2010
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      My thought is that James set up her thesis and now is trying to force fit the novels she has selected into her thesis. This is fairly common in literary criticism that try to place an overarching theme upon a series of books or an era. I am sure she has read all of Sayers, but she leaves out the parts which do not fit her theory. I think Carcase would be a book to omit if one were talking about the believability of the crime. Sayers does talk about hemophilia (albeit obliquely since it is the major clue) and handles a discussion of the medical facts. James would have been better off to use another book, such as Unnatural Death, which has been criticized as having a murder method which does not work.

      I think it a shame that these writers are not paying homage to the authors who went before them. There is more than enough room for all of tham at the table, and I honestly don't believe that today's British writers would be the same if not for Christie, Sayers, Tey, etc.

      I would quote Sherlock Holmes to say "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts" but I doubt that James would find that relevant to her discussion.

      Jeff
    • Nick Fuller
      I m using that quote from Sherlock Holmes when discussing postmodernism in the final chapter of my thesis - and a few quotes from G.K. Chesterton ( Ten false
      Message 2 of 8 , Jun 4, 2010
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        I'm using that quote from Sherlock Holmes when discussing postmodernism in the final chapter of my thesis - and a few quotes from G.K. Chesterton ("Ten false theories will fit the universe"; "a maze without a centre"; and the passage about nihilists and skeptics in Orthodoxy).
         
        At the moment, the thesis is leaning towards the proposition that the detective story is "the romance of Reason" (Barzun) - founded upon the Enlightenment humanist values of reason, objectivity, free will, and the autonomy of the individual - in contrast to the anti-humanism and nihilism of post-modernism (which GKC would surely have seen as a heresy).  The focus will be on the scientific approach of Freeman, and the Christian humanism of Chesterton.


        --- On Fri, 4/6/10, jeffrey1marks <jeffrmarks@...> wrote:


        From: jeffrey1marks <jeffrmarks@...>
        Subject: [GAdetection] Re: P. D. James on Have His Carcase (1932), by Doorhty L. Sayers: Fair Criticism?
        To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
        Received: Friday, 4 June, 2010, 10:08 AM


         




        My thought is that James set up her thesis and now is trying to force fit the novels she has selected into her thesis. This is fairly common in literary criticism that try to place an overarching theme upon a series of books or an era. I am sure she has read all of Sayers, but she leaves out the parts which do not fit her theory. I think Carcase would be a book to omit if one were talking about the believability of the crime. Sayers does talk about hemophilia (albeit obliquely since it is the major clue) and handles a discussion of the medical facts. James would have been better off to use another book, such as Unnatural Death, which has been criticized as having a murder method which does not work.

        I think it a shame that these writers are not paying homage to the authors who went before them. There is more than enough room for all of tham at the table, and I honestly don't believe that today's British writers would be the same if not for Christie, Sayers, Tey, etc.

        I would quote Sherlock Holmes to say "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts" but I doubt that James would find that relevant to her discussion.

        Jeff











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      • Vegetableduck
        Jeff, I m sure James read have His Carcase at some point, but I do wonder whether she was was relying on her memory when it came to writing about it or whether
        Message 3 of 8 , Jun 4, 2010
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          Jeff, I'm sure James read have His Carcase at some point, but I do wonder whether she was was relying on her memory when it came to writing about it or whether she actually reread it before doing talking About Detective Fiction. Relying on one's memory can be a dangerous thing to do! It's easy to forget detail. At the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year, Ruth Rendell told P. D. James that one of her favorite books by James is Innocent Blood. She said she'd read it twice, but she would need to read it again, as she had forgotten some of the key details of the plot. And this is from a woman who has the sort of mind that has come up with sixty plots for sixty novels, not to mention short stories!

          When I read James' comments about all the things Sayers overlooked in Have His Caracase I was thinking, is that right? I did reread Carcase a few years ago, but I certainly couldn't remember all the details. SO I had to skim over the book yet again to check those books. I think James might have fallen into the trap of thinking she didn't need to check because she had read the book before, and hence she ended up inadvertently misportraying Sayers somewhat on this matter.

          James actually has a great opinion of Sayers--certainly compared with Agatha Christie--but she wants to emphasize the superiority of today's crime fiction (like hers) because it is "realistic," where Golden Age detective fiction was merely "ingenious." I think you are right she does draw on things selectively to fit the thesis. And Nick is so right: the murders in Unnatural Causes and Shroud for a Nightingale are hardly everyday affairs that you expect to see in real life (and there are others in her books too where the psychology of the murderers is murdering the way they did is implausible). Or how about all the modern novels that have serial killers, a comparatively rare type of murderer, as murderers go. This is hardly "realism." Of course, like Xavier, I don't know why we should all assume realism trumps ingenuity as an artistic virtue in a crime novel. For myself, I liked James better when she her books were "ingenious."

          Curt

          I am sure she has read all of Sayers, but she leaves out the parts which do not fit her theory.
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        • Nick Fuller
          In fact, several early critics such as Nicolson and Thomson argued that one of the detective story s appeals was its very lack of reality and its embrace of
          Message 4 of 8 , Jun 4, 2010
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            In fact, several early critics such as Nicolson and Thomson argued that one of the detective story's appeals was its very lack of reality and its embrace of fantasy - a judgement with which Carr would heartily concur.
             
            I suppose it all began with Raymond Chandler's assertion that 'Fiction in any form has always intended to be realistic' - a judgement echoed by Steeves and others.  Judged by that criterion, one must condemn Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, French classical tragedy, Swift and Sterne, nineteenth century opera until the verismo movement at the end of the century, and many significant twentieth century writers, including Pirandello, Ionesco, Peake, Beckett, Céline, Borges, Stoppard and Rushdie, and the absurdist movement in British comedy (the Goons, Monty Python).  Realism is all very well in its place, but a too slavish adherence to naturalism and probability is an artificial limitation on the imagination.
             
             


            --- On Fri, 4/6/10, Vegetableduck <praed_street@...> wrote:


            From: Vegetableduck <praed_street@...>
            Subject: [GAdetection] Re: P. D. James on Have His Carcase (1932), by Doorhty L. Sayers: Fair Criticism?
            To: GAdetection@yahoogroups.com
            Received: Friday, 4 June, 2010, 7:52 PM


             



            Jeff, I'm sure James read have His Carcase at some point, but I do wonder whether she was was relying on her memory when it came to writing about it or whether she actually reread it before doing talking About Detective Fiction. Relying on one's memory can be a dangerous thing to do! It's easy to forget detail. At the Cheltenham Literary Festival last year, Ruth Rendell told P. D. James that one of her favorite books by James is Innocent Blood. She said she'd read it twice, but she would need to read it again, as she had forgotten some of the key details of the plot. And this is from a woman who has the sort of mind that has come up with sixty plots for sixty novels, not to mention short stories!

            When I read James' comments about all the things Sayers overlooked in Have His Caracase I was thinking, is that right? I did reread Carcase a few years ago, but I certainly couldn't remember all the details. SO I had to skim over the book yet again to check those books. I think James might have fallen into the trap of thinking she didn't need to check because she had read the book before, and hence she ended up inadvertently misportraying Sayers somewhat on this matter.

            James actually has a great opinion of Sayers--certainly compared with Agatha Christie--but she wants to emphasize the superiority of today's crime fiction (like hers) because it is "realistic," where Golden Age detective fiction was merely "ingenious." I think you are right she does draw on things selectively to fit the thesis. And Nick is so right: the murders in Unnatural Causes and Shroud for a Nightingale are hardly everyday affairs that you expect to see in real life (and there are others in her books too where the psychology of the murderers is murdering the way they did is implausible). Or how about all the modern novels that have serial killers, a comparatively rare type of murderer, as murderers go. This is hardly "realism." Of course, like Xavier, I don't know why we should all assume realism trumps ingenuity as an artistic virtue in a crime novel. For myself, I liked James better when she her books were "ingenious."

            Curt

            I am sure she has read all of Sayers, but she leaves out the parts which do not fit her theory.
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