Friday, February 19, 2010

Hammett and the Hammettesque

I don't how many times I've said this, or something just like this, or how many times I'll have to say it again. I wish I could say something new or original, but I can't. There is some deep, grotesque, spiritual doppleganger effect between me and Dashiell Hammett. Show me anything in post-1920's popular culture and I can point to origins in Hammett. I can't explain it. It's just the way I'm wired. Somehow, some way, every aesthetic value I have is in his fiction, and in many ways my personal, moral values. I feel I am exaggerating; but I feel it every time I praise Hammett. And if it's not in Hammett, it's in T. S. Eliot. And yet Hammett read and admired Eliot -- and the vicious circle continues.

What sprung this particular wonder? I'm in the middle of Citizen Kane, and I'm seeing all kinds of traces of Hammett's fictions. The newspaper reforms exhibit, and immediately send my mind to, traces Red Harvest and The Glass Key.

But maybe I'm exaggerating? But if it be so, the exaggeration is involuntary. I'm not trying to convince anyone to love or to like Hammett, certainly not as I do. I'm just trying to give credit where credit is due, praise where praise is due. I'm only trying to make clear -- largely to my own mind alone -- this phenomenon.

Also: H. P. Lovecraft is reading well. His Sense of Tale is to horror and gothic and the macabre what Hammett's is to our criminal and political fictions. And Lovecraft's fine, 18th-century prose-style is rubbing off. I certainly wouldn't read him if his writing did not bear such elegance.

And, once again: Etienne Gilson is the shit.

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