Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism. Published by Cow Eye Press

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Roy Rubin

I wonder if Dash Hammett or Raymond Chandler are included as pulpy? I think they are both influential and highly regarded. Their plots were ingenious, they used the same furniture (ha ha) and they certainly wrote prose with power and creativity. They were artists,no?

Dan Green

I do agree that Hammett and Chandler are artists--particularly the latter. I don't think they're what MB has in mind in championing the Gold Medal aesthetic, however.

Michael Blowhard

Hey, thanks for the link and the thoughtful response. I'll link back soon. FWIW, my own conception of fiction includes not just popular fiction but TV and movies. As for the "sensible literary standards" you refer to, I confess that I'm completely mystified. Whose? Publishing professionals'? Critics'? "Literary" peoples'? What's sensible about any of these people? Besides, they're just former English majors ...

A.C. Douglas (ACD)

You made a fatal error, Daniel, and fell right into Michael's trap by writing: "Postwar fiction includes the Mickey Spillanes and the John D. McDonalds as well as 'Capote, Cheever, Bellow, Updike, Mailer, Roth, Pynchon,' et al. Surely there is some justice in this contention [of Michael's], especially if the measure applied is sales or total books in print or name recognition rather than aesthetic accomplishment as determined by sensible literary standards."

That ill-chosen and undefined "sensible" is just what one might expect Michael, that indefatigable champion of the popular, to seize upon in an attempt to call your high-culture, "elitist" argument into question.

Michael has been a persistent and long-time champion of the populist in art — all art — and his bitter disparagement of so-called high culture art (called high culture by those with no ax to grind to distinguish it from popular culture, but so called by cheerleaders for the populist as a sneer) is reflective of the postmodern attitude toward high culture itself. It's an attitude wherein the sober, well-defined aesthetic judgments of the "elite" — judgments that are the evolved (and evolving) product of millennia of thoughtful and probing inquiry by the best minds the human race has produced — are blithely jettisoned in favor of the du-jour aesthetic judgments of the mosh pit. Such an attitude is noxious in itself, but becomes something positively pernicious when on display in a manifest intellectual such as Michael.

But, then, that sort of thing is itself yet another postmodern phenomenon, isn't it.


Steven Augustine

What a tiresome 'controversy'. The visual arts outgrew the 'high vs low' debate long ago, when the low end (tv, cinema) became so overwhelmingly popular that it no longer courted, needed or even noticed the approval of the aesthetes...and the wealthy, meanwhile, became the sole custodians of Art. Whatever. As your piece implies, to rail against the canon confirms the general durability of its judgments.

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