Monday, January 28, 2002

American Voices: Dashiell Hammett and Mark Twain

Margaret Atwood on Dashiell Hammett at NYRB.

I feel the same way calling Hammett my favorite crime fiction writer as I do calling Kim Stanley Robinson my favorite sci-fi writer; it just doesn't sit right filing them in those categories, however much they may apply, because filing them under genre tags feels more than a little like marginalizing them. I'm linking this article because of my perpetual interest in perceived connections to Mark Twain. Atwood writes:
This approach brings to mind that other American Samuel, Sam Clemens (Mark Twain), who so famously took the stuffing out of Fenimore Cooper's standards of accuracy. Indeed, the two Samuels have a lot in common: the combination of steely-eyed observation of the dirty underbelly of America and the idealistic wish that it would live up to its founding principles, the deadpan humor, and above all the dedication to language. This last, in both, took the form of an attempt to capture the tone and cadence of the American vernacular in literature, of which Huckleberry Finn is surely the first fully triumphant example.

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