Putting Your Examples Where Your Mouth Is

Kevin Burton Smith displays intellectual cowardice in proclaiming how horrible some of the “new noir” books are. What’s so wrong with this position? Well, Smith has failed to cite any specific examples for his argument. And what’s more, he appears more terrified than a mouse squirming in a glue trap. In the comments thread, Smith responded, “Like I don’t have enough people pissed off at me already? Why don’t YOU suggest some names that you think fit those shoes?”

Smith’s observations could have served as a launching point for a fascinating and provocative post, but Smith fails to cite examples of this “mean-spiritedness” and “self-righteous authorial stance” he identifies. I must therefore conclude from Smith’s post that Smith doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about, because he offers no explicit frames of reference for his argument.

Smith’s approach assumes that one cannot broach certain subjects without immediately inflaming an author, a critic, or a literary enthusiast. But this assumes that the author or critic is not mature enough to respond in a thoughtful manner to the argument, or recognize the value of discourse that gets the blood pumping. I suspect this fear of offending people in the literary world is one of the reasons Dale Peck’s form of book reviewing rankled so many a few years ago. But what’s more offensive? Hiding personal enthusiasms that offer helpful frames of reference and staying as safe as a Pat Boone record or being the momentary asshole who spots the leak in the lifeboat? Sure, you’ll hate the asshole. But if it were me, I’d trust him over the diffident one.

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