Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quality Control

If you need any evidence why politicians shouldn't write sex scenes, click here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Jim Webb's Novels and the Strategic Idiocy of Senator Allen

In an idiotic move that seems unreasonably low-stooping even for U.S. politics, Virginia Senator George Allen has sent out a press release condemning excerpts from his rival Jim Webb's fiction writing. Yes, that's right. Lines of dialogue, taken out of context. Notions of character. He seeks to prove that Jim Webb is a misogynist because his characters - his CHARACTERS! - mention things like "knocking the bitch up." And there are - gasp! - graphic sex scenes. And mentions of breasts. He's also making much of an excerpt that portrays pedophilic sex.

Now I've yet to get political on this blog, but I can say in all seriousness, give us a fucking break here. Are we really going to judge men and women who run for office in this country by nasty (or merely sexual) things that their characters say and do? I guess that rules out pretty much anyone in the entire crime fiction community from running for public office. I know I've written some particularly graphic things, sometimes words in the mouths of characters, sometimes in point of view or free indirect discourse of a character, sometimes in the tone of a narrator who - newsflash - is not me. It's not just those of us who write crime fiction who could be called to moral task here - it could be anyone who's ever written about, uh, conflict. Or assholes. Or racists. Or misogynists. Let's just not portray those people at all. In fact, let's not write about these topics. Allen's campaign is now judging literary themes, and sensing "patterns" in Webb's portrayal of women. So I guess Joyce and Hemingway are screwed too. And Christ - what to do if someone catches Dianne Feinstein reading Sanctuary? A U.S. Senator, exposing herself to a book with a graphic corn-cob rape scene? Surely a human such as that wouldn't be fit to hold public office.

This is clearly a calculated absurdity. There's no question it will prove effective, but I hope it's roundly condemned in thinking quarters as well.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Israel and, uh, Comics

Okay, here's my first interview about Foolkiller - the classic Steve Gerber character who I'm bringing back for Marvel. Only catch...it's in Hebrew!

Here's the link for those of you who read Hebrew or want to check out some Foolkiller graphics (actually, if you scan down the page, you can read the interview in English):


Friday, October 06, 2006

Is There Such a Thing as Non-Literary Fiction?

The terms "literary fiction" and "commercial fiction" always crack me up. As if Thomas Harris or Stephen King's writings are, uh, "non-literary." As if Philip Roth mows lawns to supplement his unmarketable talents. It's been said before and often: Isn't there just good fiction and bad fiction? People forget that Camus's inspiration for The Stranger was The Postman Always Rings Twice. Cain's masterpiece is pretty goddamned literary. And The Stranger has sold a few copies. Why bother labeling them? Frankly, they both kick serious ass.

The following section is from an amazing Washington Post article, in which Ayn Rand compares the writing of Mickey Spillane, rarely the critics' favorite, to those of Thomas Wolfe:
"Rand appreciated Spillane's precision as a writer, and in an essay on literature (which appears in her book "The Romantic Manifesto") quotes from Spillane's description of New York at night as an example of his skill -- "The rain was misty enough to be almost foglike, a cold gray curtain that separated me from the pale ovals of white that were faces locked behind the steamed-up windows of the cars that hissed by. Even the brilliance that was Manhattan by night was reduced to a few sleepy yellow lights off in the distance" -- and then compares it to a passage by Thomas Wolfe -- "The city had never seemed as beautiful as it looked that night. For the first time he saw that New York was supremely, among the cities of the world, a city of night. There had been achieved here a loveliness that was astounding and incomparable, a kind of modern beauty, inherent to its place and time, that no other place nor time could match."

To Rand, "there is not a single emotional word or adjective in Spillane's description; he presents nothing save visual facts; but he selects only those facts, only those eloquent details, which convey the visual reality of the scene and create a mood of desolate loneliness." Wolfe, she argued, used only estimates, "and in the absence of any indication of what aroused these estimates, they are arbitrary assertions and meaningless generalities."

for the complete article, click here:


Now Wolfe is a brilliant writer, and Spillane certainly has written a few clunky passages. It's unfair to compare merely two sentences and draw broader conclusions. But I found the contrast interesting and compelling, and worth discussion. Which do you prefer and why?