FOUL AND FAIR PLAY

READING GENRE IN CLASSIC DETECTIVE FICTION

A strangely equivocal morphology of detective fiction that reads every one of its considerable range of forms as a recurrence of a single, rigidly conventional formula. The structuralist approach that Roth (English/Univ. of Minnesota) takes to his material has been around for 70 years and has in fact been the preferred approach to the genre for commentators as diverse as John Dickson Carr, Roland Barthes, Geoffrey Hartman, and Umberto Eco. What's new here is the inclusion of espionage writers like Ian Fleming together with Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane, and the coolly neutral tone of Roth's assessments, as when he remarks that ``bad writing, rather than being a failure of the genre, is actually a characteristic of it, emerging from its center.'' Roth's method is topical rather than historical. Successive chapters consider the masochistically avid detective hero, the absent or bad-girl heroine, the improbably ingenious criminal, and the conventions of airtight solutions, physical clues, and impossible coincidences. But the formal detective novels of Christie and Dorothy Sayers dictate the pattern into which Roth squeezes the later hardboiled stories and spy thrillers. Roth's most original move—to read spy stories as detective stories—is his least convincing, and his readings of ``perverse'' detective conventions like the omnicompetent hero and the reliance on spurious logic are marred by his obvious impatience with the very categories he is using. Telltale slips (e.g., about the year of Hercule Poirot's debut) will make fans of the genre as dismissive of Roth as he is of them. The best things here are at the edges, whenever Roth places detective stories in the context of popular formulas that include boys' adventure stories, sensation novels, and science fiction. Detective stories, Roth concludes, are a form of cultural junk dedicated to examining the junk their culture would prefer to hide. His own ambivalence toward junk is what gives this analysis its perverse but limited appeal.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-8203-1622-9

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1994

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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