Thursday, March 26, 2015

Who put that soapbox there?

I'll tell you one thing for a kick-off. I wouldn't rewrite any of the three blogs on this topic that have gone before me this week (or any week). You've nailed it, fellow Minds. Agatha Christie and Dan Brown were going to be the foundation of my argument today. Also Raymond Chandler.

Wait, wait - before you strip me of my MWA membership and possibly my greencard.

Just as nobody reads Christie for the characters, and nobody reads Brown for the lyrical prose, surely nobody reads Chandler for the plots. Surely.

As Clare said yesterday, it's rare for one writer - and rarer for one book - to do absolutely everything brilliantly.

But you know what bugs me? When people who've never read Christie for years (if they've ever read her at all) casually dismiss her, while people who've never read Chandler for years (if at all) laud him to the heavens.

coughsexismcough.

But, to be fair, it's not only that. It's also that what's great about Chandler - the individual lines of prose and the imagery - is something easy to get a handle on with a quick Googlesearch. What's great about Christie - the plots that had people writing to the Times and would have had them rioting in the streets if they hadn't been English  - are harder to be acquainted with unless you sit down and read the novels.

But what about the films, you ask. Well, that's the other problem. Now that we know the plots - they all did it! The narrator did it! She wasn't there! - we forget what genius they were first time around.

If I had homework-setting powers I'd ask everyone who hasn't read it to crack open The Moving Finger and feast on one of Christie's most wonderful plots - much copied since by movies - in a novel with great characters and laughs of the out loud kind.

In fact - why not? - I'll send a copy to a commenter who hasn't read it, and see if you agree.









13 comments:

Barb Ross said...

Hear, hear!

The casual dismissal of Christie drives me crazy!

Hey, bub, let's see if you're still in print 40 years after your death.

And she didn't create any characters? Seriously, who else created not one, but two primary sleuths who are a part of the popular culture?

Stepping down off soapbox. I feel better now. Thanks for giving me the opportunity, Catronia.

Debi Huff said...

Good defense, Catriona. I especially enjoyed the coughsexismcough!!

Lori Rader-Day said...

My reading list is long enough, but now I want to read that book. I think you're right on both points about why Agatha Christie is dismissed when Chandler (though he was a total pulp writer in the day) is now "classic literature."

Mysti Berry said...

Most ardent fans of Chandler that I've met are from or have done time in the LA basin. Finding beauty in that milieu isn't easy.

But I'm a Hammett girl myself--it's all about theme, baby! Of course, Christie nailed theme as well: subtext I often missed in my early teens.

I still remember the day I threw Roger Ackroyd across the room--not because Christie hadn't played fair, but because I knew darn well she had.

Long live Christie, Chandler, and Hammett!!!!

Gram said...

I liked all of Christie. Tommy and Tuppence, Quin and Satterwaite, Parker Pyne, Col. Race and Hercule and Mrs. Marple. I think I forgot someone, but you get the idea!

Meg Mims said...

I agree about Hammett over Chandler. And Christie is both Emperor (Poirot) & Empress (Marple) in my book. Josephine Try is another underappreciated mystery writer. Great post!

Meg Mims said...

Arrgh. Tey!!! Josephine TEY!

Meg Mims said...

Arrgh. Tey!!! Josephine TEY!

Meg Mims said...

I agree about Hammett over Chandler. And Christie is both Emperor (Poirot) & Empress (Marple) in my book. Josephine Try is another underappreciated mystery writer. Great post!

Catriona McPherson said...

Lori, A copy of The Moving Finger is on its way to you.

Gwen Mayo said...

Great post! I have read all of Christie's mysteries. Most of Chandler's. Hammett wasn't available in the tiny town where I lived, but I have read a few. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses. I have to admit that of the male mystery writers I Rex Stout is my personal favorite.

Gwen Mayo said...

It is a good thing I married and editor...

Lori Rader-Day said...

WINNER! I read it this weekend and loved it. Of course I did. It's Agatha Christie. It's also brilliant and charming, which is what I love best and why I like Catriona McPherson books, too. Thank you!