Declan Burke over at Crime Always Pays has an interesting post on the lack of critical evaluation of crime fiction and the role of blogs. My library has a pretty good collection of books about crime/mystery fiction and I've found many interesting journal articles but not much recent material. I've come to rely on blogs and web sites. It is nigh to impossible to select nuggets from Dec's post since the whole thing is spot on but here are a couple of selections
By the same token, many mainstream commentators have suggested that the blogging format doesn’t lend itself to the quality of commentary available in mainstream media. To a certain extent, this is true. The blogging paradigm lends itself to shorter, more direct forms of communication than that of the traditional mainstream press. Further, most bloggers are not being paid to read and review books, and are for the most part doing it as a labour of love in their spare time. Another factor involved is that to be a ‘successful’ blogger – i.e., to achieve the kind of exposure that makes your time and effort worthwhile – it is necessary to blog on a regular basis, or at least far more regularly than the traditional media reviewer needs to review. For all these reasons, and more, the on-line community lacks the resources (but mainly space, time and money) that has allowed the more literary community build up a corpus of critical work on literary novels.and
... the critical work on crime fiction needs to develop of and through its own metier, that the Johnsons of the crime / mystery community require their Boswells, and that I believe heart and soul that crime / mystery fiction needs and deserves the kind of widespread, top-to-bottom critical work that would in turn inspire the writers to strive towards ever-higher standards of work.I think blogs have the potential to provide the kind of critical commentary Declan suggests. There have been discussions on blogs that blogs might be a better than print journals for scholarly publishing because of their immediacy and because the author and readers can have an active dialog. In fact, Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an assistant professor at U.C. San Diego, used blog comments to peer review his book. Read about it here.
I hope Declan's challenge is taken up by bloggers. There are tremendously talented bloggers and very astute readers in the blogosphere and critical commentary is very possible.
The other post that I've been thinking about comes from Petrona. It isn't the clarion call of Declan's post. It's personal - What I like in a book. Maxine nicely articulates what she likes in crime fiction. The reason it has me thinking is that I don't really consider the elements of what I like in a book. I devour books but why do I drop some after the first chapter, skip to the end of others to see if I want to keep reading, and stay up much to late on a work night to finish others. I think I'm going to keep pen and paper handy the next time I start a book note what stands out, good and bad.