Some Links, Some Lists

Today’s L.A. Times features Sarah Weinman’s review of Leonard Cassuto’s Hard-Boiled Sentimentality (a review linked directly here and through her own website here). It’s really a top-notch piece of criticism — one which not only seems to underscore what’s interesting and important about the book (which I’ve not yet read), but also adds to the conversation started by this study, offering both additional perspectives and additional reading. Beyond putting Cassuto’s book on my to-buy list, I’ve been reminded again to track down a couple of Dorothy Hughes’ titles too: In a Lonely Place, mentioned in the L.A. Times review, and The Expendable Man, recommended by Weinman elsewhere.

The review had me thinking about which critical works I’ve turned to either regularly or recently for my own understanding of the genre. A quick list is below, some of them more outdated than others (but still useful for glimpses at the historical development of the genre):

  • The Art of the Mystery Story: A Collection of Critical Essays by Howard Haycraft (a much-tattered copy)
  • The Poetics of Murder: Detective Fiction and Literary Theory, edited by Glenn W. Most and William W. Stowe (I come back time and again, for better or worse, to Geoffrey Hartman’s essay, “Literature High and Low: The Case of the Mystery Story”)
  • Detective Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Robin Winks
  • Out of the Woodpile: Black Characters in Crime and Detective Fiction by Frankie Bailey
  • Isn’t Justice Always Unfair? The Detective in Southern Literature by J.K. Van Dover and John F. Jebb 

Those last two titles reflect in part the second of my major interests: Southern literature (and I recognize how these two mostly disparate interests, and my personal connections to North Carolina literature, sometimes give a schizophrenic feel to this blog). So here are two big books — which invariably point me to other, more specific resources — and one more focussed, more personal favorite among the references I use in this direction:

  • The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris
  • The Companion to Southern Literature: Themes, Genres, People, Places, Movements and Motifs, edited by Joseph M. Flora and Lucinda Hardwick MacKethan
  • History and Memory in the Two Souths: Recent Southern and Spanish American Fiction by Deborah N. Cohn

(I won’t let that last title lead me to talking about my love of Latin American fiction.)

But one more list, since I’ve seen other blogs do it. Here’s a quick run-down of books I’ve been reading, rereading, using or perusing at some length over the last week:

  • Indignation by Philip Roth (I finally found the time to read it, and it’s great!)
  • The Doomsters by Ross Macdonald
  • A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning & Life by Nancy Peacock (mentioned earlier this week); and
  • Stirring the Pot: The Kitchen and Domesticity in the Fiction of Southern Women by Laura Sloan Patterson 

— Art Taylor

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