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. . . EX, FANG, GORE, HACK, ITCH, JAIL, KILL, LAG, MACE, NOOSE, OATH, PAIN, QUEER, RAT, STOOL, TAIL, UPROAR, VAULT, WELSH, X, YEGG, ZAP*
Oh, the power of language! What do you think, which title sells better: ´Axe´ or ´The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Woodcutter´? Silly question, eh? The brain of readers whose native tongue is English is impressed by short, one syllable words (the Germanic heritage), hence ´Kill Bill´ is just perfect as far as titles go.
Of course ´The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Woodcutter´ will also find its readers, one-syllable titles attract the lovers of hardcore, brutal, ´noir´ thrillers whereas long titles with long words attract the connoisseurs of whodunits to be read sitting in an armchair by the fireside.
I know them all, from pulp fiction´s most famous hero G-man Jerry Cotton to Dame Aggie´s cosy Miss Marple and Hercule Piorot, from Raymond Chandler´s asocial loners to Patricia Cornwell´s Kay Scarpetta with her disgusting job. I started at the age of 14 when a good woman gave me a bag full of dog-eared thrillers (for my confirmation, an odd present indeed, but the one I liked best!), I remember vividly that the bag contained 19 books which I exchanged with friends, for years I always had 19 thrillers at home.
From the beginning I´ve always had to defend my reading matter, first against my mother, later against friends, husband, colleagues, they always thought what I read was ´beneath´ me, embarrassing for an intelligent girl/student/woman, only the fact that I also read high-brow literature saved me from total damnation. I?ll never forget an incident in Italy; once when I was on one of our exchange visits, I had a free afternoon and spent it in the garden of my host family reading a thriller. When an Italian teacher asked me in the evening how I had passed my time and I told her, she was horrified. Only the day before we had had such an intelligent conversation, how could I debase myself so much? To understand her horror one must know that thrillers have no tradition in Italy, only recently Italian authors have started writing in this genre (so she didn´t really know what she was talking about which didn´t hinder her from voicing an opinion, though). I added that the book was written in English and she relaxed, so I was obviously doing something to further my knowledge of the language, nonsense, of course, but I let it be.
How did I defend my reading matter? Well, a top notch thriller is perfectly structured, has impressive fictional characters, portrays a (well researched) section of life vividly, entertains and lets the reader feel suspense, sometimes so much so that they forget everything around them and make them call in sick in order to be able to finish whatever they´ve begun reading. I even know a teacher who didn´t go to school one morning because she had to finish her book (no, not me!) Suspense, thrill, some people need this like a drug, others don´t.
The older I get, the less I need it. I?ve thoroughly thought through the question why I don´t like thrillers as much now as I did once. Thrillers are about blood, gore etc. (see title!) and the question comes to mind why it should be enjoyable to read about such nasty things. Is our every day life too boring, do we need the kick? (Someone told me that it was understandable that Italians had no tradition of writing and reading thrillers, enough horrible things happen in their real lives). Or are we readers of such stuff sick? Why should I know how a serial killer ticks? Chances are I´ll never meet one in real life. The part of the world where I live is not a crime ridden area, so I can´t say I read thrillers to be prepared. I don´t think I want to poke deeper in the psychological back(under)ground, who knows what may come to the surface, heehee!
Crime fiction is not high-brow literature, it is a sibling, but a minor one, quite minor as I´ve finally understood. Whatever is dealt with in a thriller is not as important as the creation of suspense. The human condition is not the subject, if fictitious characters are, say, lonely, loneliness is not the subject, they´re lonely for a purpose so-to-speak. Because of this their plight leaves me cold in the end. Another item is the use of language, even the best specimen, i.e., the thrillers written by authors who know how to use the language well, are simple language-wise if compared to high-brow novels, have to be, because playing with the language, experimenting with it would distract from what a thriller is written for which is, you know it already, suspense.
I used to look out for well written thrillers, now I look out for high-brow literature with a thrilling plot written in a brill style. I won´t wallow in blood any more to the extent I did before, I´ll only read a thriller occasionally if it is set somewhere interesting, as additional background reading material.
Sorry, dear assassins, burglars, cannibals, cheaters, forgers, killers, molesters, poisoners, robbers, stalkers, stranglers, swindlers, torturers and other scum: from now on you will have to assassinate, burgle, chew, cheat, forge, kill, molest, poison, rob, stalk, strangle, swindle and torture without me watching you, your performances don´t satisfy me any more.
*dooyoo didn´t accept the whole title