A critical question for readers
Another entry in the book, Peter Robinson's, shines an illuminating light on Georges Simenon's Maigret, demonstrating in the process that criticism need not be diffuse, obscurantist, frivolous or incomprehensible. Robinson writes:
"H.R.F. Keating has noted that the Maigret stories represent the first examples of the detective as writer. Part of this clearly stems from Maigret's desire to understand human motivation and his need to soak up the atmosphere of a place and immerse himself in a complex mesh of relationships until the solution to the crime becomes clear. Simenon's plots are often flimsy or far-fetched, and Maigret's actual detective work can be minimal at times. What makes the books so absorbing is his empathy with the characters he encounters ... " (Highlighting is mine.)What can I say except that the man is right and that his comments say much about why we read crime fiction.
As it happens, crime-fiction reviewers come in for some criticism on Crime Scraps this week, where a comment laments the shakiness of the Telegraph's recent list of 50 crime writers to read before you die. The commenter complains that:
"With the odd exception — Marcel Berlins, e.g. — reviewers are stringers or staff with a passing interest and without knowledge either wide or deep of the genre, nor of what, in literary terms, constitutes fine writing. And they [don't] particularly care — after all, it's just crime fiction. Today we have no Julian Symons, no Harry Keating, no Jacques Barzun, and that is a very unhappy thing."That's another bouquet for H.R.F. Keating. Now, how about you, readers? Who's your favorite crime-fiction critic? What remarks about crime fiction have made you stroke your chin thoughtfully and muse, "Hmm, that's right."?
© Peter Rozovsky 2008