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The Simple Art of Murder

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  • Xavier Lechard
    You should always be careful when you buy a book at a yard sale. Last Sunday, I bought a collection of Raymond Chandler s short stories. Everyone here knows
    Message 1 of 3 , Apr 2, 2005
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      You should always be careful when you buy a book at a yard sale. Last
      Sunday, I bought a collection of Raymond Chandler's short stories. Everyone
      here knows about my fondness for short fiction and my opinion that
      hardboiled works better in that medium. Also - and this also everyone here
      knows - Chandler is one author I have a most complicated relation with, and
      I thought that reading his early stuff would help me to clarify my feelings,
      the more so as his short fiction is allegedly better plotted than his
      novels. Alas, whoever edited that anthology found that writing an
      introduction took too much time for too little money paid. Instead, he/she
      reprinted Chandler's infamous essay "The Simple Art of Murder" that belongs
      to my personal candidates for autodafe, along with Edmund Wilson's senile
      ramblings. No need, I think, to say that my potential pleasure was some
      spoiled, but I still re-read it and once I was able to hold in my anger,
      found it quite interesting - though not for the reasons Chandler intended.
      Alike aforementioned Wilson's articles or - on the other side - S.S. Van
      Dine's commandments, "The Simple Art of Murder" tells us more about its
      author than about the genre it claims to be an examination of. A very
      intelligent and cultured man, Chandler was a conservative, elitist mind when
      it came to literature and art in general. His essay, and most of his
      theorical work, expresses his belief in a hierarchy of genres, and his Great
      Ancestors (Austen, Fielding, James, Smollett) as well as his standards
      (realism, verisimilitude, psychology) are right what you'd expect from
      someone who attended a public school in the early twentieth century. That
      particular training accounts for Chandler's originality as a writer, but
      also for his unability to understand popular culture and most particularly
      detective fiction. Judging Golden Age authors and their works by his own
      rigid standards, he dismissed them as not belonging to what he calls "true
      literature" but it never occurs to him that "true literature" - if those
      words have some objective meaning - is not what the genre claims to be nor
      what its readers expect. Chandler doesn't understand that detective fiction
      generates its own particular kind of reader, one that cares little about
      realism, verisimilitude and in-depth characterization. Neither does he
      understand the real nature of the genre. Detective novel's logic is purely
      formal. Even though it claims to be about reasoning, the genre ultimately is
      about mystery and that's what the reader primarily seeks for. As long as the
      puzzle is engrossing and unraveled in a formally logic way, reader cares
      little about legal or technic inaccuracies. Despite its emphasis on
      reasoning, detective fiction is closer to prestidigitation than to
      mathematics - spectacle is everything.

      Friendly,
      Xavier

      "Stop looking daggers at me, Justin, or I will return your glance thus!"
      - Carolyn Wells
    • Taylor401306@cs.com
      In a message dated 01/20/2007 3:34:11 AM Eastern Standard Time, ... Says The page The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler does not yet exist. It is most
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 20, 2007
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        In a message dated 01/20/2007 3:34:11 AM Eastern Standard Time,
        GAdetection@yahoogroups.com writes:
        > I found the text of Chandler's seminal criticism of golden age
        > fiction online. Put up on the wiki at
        > http://gadetection.pbwiki.com/The%20Simple%20Art%20of%20Murder%20by%
        > 20Raymond%20Chandler
        Says "The page The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler does not yet
        exist." It is most likely protected by copyright .





        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • alfredjunkyardgreen
        ... yet ... My bad. I renamed the article to conform closer to the naming convention of the wiki. The link is
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 21, 2007
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          --- In GAdetection@yahoogroups.com, Taylor401306@... wrote:
          >
          > In a message dated 01/20/2007 3:34:11 AM Eastern Standard Time,
          > GAdetection@yahoogroups.com writes:
          > > I found the text of Chandler's seminal criticism of golden age
          > > fiction online. Put up on the wiki at
          > > http://gadetection.pbwiki.com/The%20Simple%20Art%20of%20Murder%20by%
          > > 20Raymond%20Chandler
          > Says "The page The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler does not
          yet
          > exist." It is most likely protected by copyright .
          >
          My bad. I renamed the article to conform closer to the naming
          convention of the wiki. The link is
          http://gadetection.pbwiki.com/The%20Simple%20Art%20of%20Murder
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