Junot Diaz writes about MFA vs. POC. It's an important topic; usually I emphasize music and race on DTM, but once in a while I consider literature too, most notably in my interview with Gerald Early and "Reading the Black Jazz Writers." (Also, I loved Diaz's sci-fi horror story "Monstro" in the New Yorker a few years ago.)
In related news, Ted Gioia alerted me to a Consequence of Sound poll, "Who's the Greatest Drummer of All Time?" OK; this is dumb, right? No need for me to get upset...
...Too late. The one jazz drummer in with all the white rockers is Buddy Rich. Ironically I have ended up defending Rich against some who rail against him: Sure, he's no Max Roach, but he doesn't ruin the Bird-Diz-Monk date, at least to my ears. Also the trio date with Prez and Nat Cole is killing.
However, when there's not one black drummer on a list and somehow Buddy Rich makes the cut? That is straight-up racism.
If you are part of a drum culture that doesn't appreciate jazz, don't try to honor it with a token Buddy Rich. (Or Gene Krupa, or Joe Morello.)
There's Philip Marlowe in the air, thanks to The Black-Eyed Blonde, a new book by Benjamin Black. Sarah Weinman's detective work in "The Brand is My Business" is stunning; a kinder view is taken by professional crime author Dick Lochte in "No Big Sleep for Raymond Chandler." (I enjoyed Lochte's Sleeping Dogs when I read it years ago.)
Forced to choose between Hammett and Chandler, it's an easy call: I'm for Hammett. I've been looking at both again recently and Hammett makes the reader reach in to complete the circuit. Chandler serves it up on a plate.
Vince Keenan told me about what James Ellroy brilliantly said about the pair:
Chandler wrote the kind of guy that he wanted to be, Hammett wrote the kind of guy that he was afraid he was. Chandler’s books are incoherent. Hammett’s are coherent. Chandler is all about the wisecracks, the similes, the constant satire, the construction of the knight. Hammett writes about the all-male world of mendacity and greed.
Back to PC and POC: When Hammett is off-handedly homophobic and racist, it's in a context where there are no real heroes. But Chandler has his knight spout homophobic and racist stuff in a way that invites the reader to be homophobic and racist as well.
Chandler is, "Us vs. them." Hammett is, "We are all tainted." It's easy to see why Chandler's work remains more popular than Hammett's. I'm not going to read The Black-Eyed Blonde.