Tag Archives: Algis Valiunas

“The American Art of Murder”

 

 

 

A new article of potential interest to Dreiserians is the following:

“The American Art of Murder”

by Algis Valiunas

National Affairs

Summer 2019

 

https://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-american-art-of-murder

 

 

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Dreiser’s An American Tragedy are featured. The commentary on An American Tragedy is brief, and there are no new findings per se, but the author’s analysis of murder in the novel, of Clyde’s motives and psychological makeup, are lucid and clear.
Algis Valiunas comments:

When it comes to murder, Fitzgerald and Dreiser are the most eminent American writers of the old school, in which men kill for familiar, time- honored reasons: the blind rage of vengeance, the seductive gleam of ambition. This conventional sort of murder has an honored tradition in American literature, and its lesser masters include Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Raymond Chandler, all of whom were considered purveyors of pulp fiction in their day but whose work has now been enshrined in the Library of America. Murder is their special subject, and their principal traffic runs to crimes of limitless avarice and uncontrollable sexual passion.

He then goes on to analyze Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Meyer Levin’s Compulsion (based on the actual murder of Robert Franks by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb), Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences, and Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho.

“The American art of murder,” Valiunas concludes, “has traveled a long way from the days of Fitzgerald and Dreiser. Where murderers once killed for some plausible purpose, they now do so for the elemental joy of killing.”

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   February 2020