02/06/2009

A Fiction of Dreams

Readers of this blog know the lack of theoretical thinking in contemporary mystery fiction is one of my pet-peeves. Modern authors, talent notwistanding, have often nothing or little of substance to say about the genre. China Mieville's featured article on Jim Scalzi's blog makes a refreshing exception. There are many good points there, but the most important might well be this one:
 
"[...]Crime novels are not what they say they are. They are not, for a start, realist novels. Holmes's intoxicating and ludicrous taxonomies derived from scuffs on a walking stick are not acts of ratiocination but of bravura magical thinking. (Not that they, or other 'deductions', are necessarily 'illogical', or don't make sense of the evidence, but that they precisely do so: they make it into sense. The sense follows the detection, in these stories, not, whatever the claim, vice versa.) The various manly Virgils who appear ex nihilo to escort Marlowe through his oneiric purgatories are not characters, but eloquent opacities in man-shape: much more interesting. Dalgliesh's irresistibility to hyperrealised moral panics du jour – the poor man manages to contract SARS – is an elegiac opera of Holland Park angst, rather than any quotidian gazette of a policeman's unhappy lot. Detective fiction is a fiction of dreams. Not only is this no bad thing, it is precisely what makes it so indispensable."
 
One of the reasons why I am skeptical of any kind of "realism" in mystery fiction is that I think the genre actually belongs in the realm of imaginative literature, up there with ghost stories, fantasy, sci-fi, chansons de geste and fairy tales to which detective stories have so often been compared. Today's conception of the mystery genre as an offshot of naturalism to me is a profound and in many ways tragic misunderstanding. I may elaborate on this later.
 

1 commentaire:

Anonyme a dit…

Realism is no more workable in art than fiction would be in science. What is called realism in crime fiction exists to further the willing suspension of disbelief. Anyone seeking the reality of crime should study forensic science or join the police force.

Realism and crime? Try this headline: "Manga ruled as child pornography by US Court"

The accused, described as a “prolific collector” of manga Japanese comic book art, pleaded guilty last week to mailing obscene matter and to “possession of obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children” and was charged under the 2003 Protect Act, which outlaws cartoons, drawings, sculptures or paintings depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, and which lack “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” His guilty plea makes him the first to be convicted under that law for possessing cartoon art, without any evidence that he also collected or viewed genuine child pornography. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

So, Westerners have found drawings they abhor as much as Muslim extremists abhor depictions of Mohammed the so-called prophet.

Doesn't pertain to you, you say? Maybe. Does your crime fiction library include a copy of a murder mystery called "Lolita"? If so, it had better not be illustrated...