January 31, 2005

Gobsmacked!

Ian's gobsmacked--gobsmacked, I say!--to find that until last week I'd never read Dashiell Hammett. This happens every so often with one author or another, and honestly I'm rather flattered. But why should it be so astonishing, given my approach to the classics?

I mean, there's no question that Hammett's a classic American voice. But I've rarely gone in for reading the classics just because they are the classics. When I go looking for something I've not read before, I'm most likely to choose something by an author I already like; I'm next most likely to pick something that's been recommended to me; and if I'm feeling expansive or I haven't found anything in the first two categories I'll just browse and find things I don't know anything about. Case in point--I very much like Jane Austen; I started reading her because Persuasion came up in a discussion of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels.

And not being a film geek like Ian (I use the term advisedly) I've not encountered Hammett's tales in the movies (except for The Maltese Falcon).

So what's so surprising?

Posted by Will Duquette at January 31, 2005 05:12 PM