Posts from 18th January 2009

Jan 09

Crime Writers: James Lee Burke

The Brown Wedge2 comments • 292 views

(Introductory notes: my series Comics: A Beginner’s Guide seemed to go over quite well, as far as I can tell. It occurred to me that there were two other areas where I have sometimes been asked for guidance and recommendations – the other is SF writing, coming soon. My tastes are very much for tough American crime, and my interest is that of someone who mostly reads literary fiction, so I’m looking for the same sort of interest and stimulation and entertainment I get there, rather than clever mysteries – though some of the writers I’ll mention do provide that.)

If I were looking to recommend one contemporary crime writer to someone who was only interested in mainstream literary values, I’d go for James Lee Burke. His descriptive prose is of the highest order – especially on the swamplands around New Orleans, the plants and water and animals and weather. He leans rather towards the pathetic fallacy at times, but that’s fine with me. He’s also one of the most serious crime writers ever in thematic terms: lots of unflinching and honest examination of good and evil, race, sex, money, power, politics, crime, law and so on. His sense of evil is particularly powerful, virtually Biblical in conception at times – he reminds me more of Cormac McCarthy than any other writer. Indeed, McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men has much in common with Burke’s novels, not least for the scariness of the central villain.


The Amazing Twilight Man

FT2 comments • 706 views

Twilight is a superhero movie. Yes, really. It posits an interesting twist to the psychological dynamics of the superhero narrative however. In superhero comics, the powered lead is usually our identification character, the story is set up to give us the wish fulfilment of being the hero. In Twilight, a romance, rather than become all powerful like the friendly vegetarian vampire, the wish-fulfilment is in dating him. Whilst I don’t doubt wanting to be a superhero is a bit of a lame ambition, wanting to date a vampire seems at least one step removed from being the main agency in your life. Define yourself by your relationships why doncha?

So Twilight is 25% small time Superman, 25% Twin Peaks and 50% Count Duckula. Though clearly not as good as that might suggest. Mostly it plays up to its female teen demographic whilst not making for a very interesting film. There have been complaints that Twilight is misogynistic, or overtly conservative in its sexual politics. After all our lead vampire keeps withdrawing from even a kiss, that’s about as chaste as you can be in modern cinema. What the critics are missing here is as far as he is concerned he is snogging the tastiest steak in the Argentinian restaurant.