Black Noir: New Anthology

I haven’t read anything lately. And I might not for awhile. I’m hoping that the book group will give me some motivation. I’ve watched every episode of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency thanks to HBO on Demand. Love it. I watched episodes of The Game, New York Undercover, Noah’s Arc, and every other show you can imagine. I think I’m overdosing on television. I’m also certain that grad school has ruined my interest in reading (just a little) for a second or two—as far as reading for pleasure goes. I just need another week or two of goofing off and then I’ll start picking up some of the books I should have read already (again). This includes finishing The Ecstatic. I am on page 25 and holding. Shame. But I have been checking out numerous cookbooks from the library, so that should count as reading. . . a little bit. . . right?

In book news, NPR reports:

Mystery fiction written by black authors is, not surprisingly, often very different from work in that broadly defined genre written by white writers. The early novels and short stories, in particular, tended to show the detective in a reasonably insular community, trying to solve crimes with black victims and committed, in all likelihood, by black villains. There was little reliance on the outside (mainly white) world to administer justice.

A nation’s government, in order for detective stories to flourish, needs to be a relatively democratic one. Under dictatorial and repressive regimes, it is the police themselves who are regarded by much of the citizenry as villainous, not as the source of relief from fear and injustice. The police, or their closely allied counterparts, militia, are in the employ of governments that use them to suppress the freedom of the men and women under their control. To speak out against emperors, czars, dictators, or monarchs means a swift trip to prison or the gallows, and it is the police who arrest the dissidents and bring them to their fate. As the enemy, then, it is hardly likely that fiction would be created in which these figures would serve as the righteous heroes who would protect society from murderers, robbers, and other criminals.

For mystery fiction to attain any degree of popularity, the culture in which it could be created requires the same elements upon which all forms of literary entertainment depend. A country has to be fairly prosperous, allowing a significant portion of the population to have leisure time. Edgar Allan Poe’s invention of the first genuine detective story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” in 1841, approximately coincided with the start of the industrial revolution, beginning the process of changing America from a largely agrarian society to a manufacturing one. Gone for many thousands of people were the endless hours required to run a subsistence-level farm, replaced by increased income and the commensurate free time that allowed for the pursuit of relaxation and entertainment. As schools and literacy increased, so did the number of books and magazines that fed a newly created demand. England, a mighty colonial power, had been increasing the national wealth for many years, much of it trickling down to its populace. After France recovered from the excesses of its revolution, the French, too, enjoyed relative political freedom and arobust economy. (Read more. . .)

Happy reading, y’all!

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