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April 05, 2005


David Fiore

that's an interesting observation Marc, re: Polanski as Elisha Cooke...

the big difference, of course, is that this version of the "little tough guy" actually gets the drop on the protagonist--and humiliates him in the bargain...

what if Wilmer had directed the Maltese Falcon?

that, my friend, is revisionism!

it's a great movie


what if Wilmer had directed the Maltese Falcon?

And cast its director as a perverse version of his boss, Gutman?!

(Not that I think Huston is just doing a Sidney Greenstreet riff... where Gutman ends up a bit of a joke, bouncing off with Cairo to jaunt around the world in their best Bing n' Bob impression, Noah Cross is all too horrifyingly potent. But aren't they both treatments of the father-of-enjoyment, sick with appetite and desire?)

Peli Grietzer

No that I think reading The Waste Land is ever such a bad idea (though personally I'll take The Hollow Men, Prufrock, Ash Wednesday or Geronthion over it any day), but how exactly is it related to detective fiction?

Is the relation through the parataxis and heap of broken images and all that?


It's related by allusion to just about every work I put on the syllabus, from the common reading of General Sternwood as a Fisher King archetype to my feeling that Noah Cross is a warped version of the same. It became increasingly difficult to get through a class without talking about the poem - it seems even more important to the postmodernists, as a handy target for parody or dissent - especially since the majority of my students haven't read it. And as I'm offering a class on theories of modernism and postmodernism as well as detective fiction I decided that needed correcting.

Those strictly practical considerations aside, there is a serious case for discussing The Waste Land in terms of detective fiction, as it offers the same kind of epistemological quest that structures so many detective stories (and that postmodernist detective stories like City of Glass explode). Martin Rowson showed this in his brilliant decision to parody the poem as a noir starring a very Robert Mitchum-like PI named Marlowe (only the first of many perfect noir-to-Eliot or noir-to-modernism jokes, like casting Mr. Eugenides as Casper Gutman). If that book were still in print, as I've said before, Eliot would have been on the syllabus from the beginning. This only rectifies his omission.


And I would add, having now conducted the class, that Peli's instincts are exactly right - The Waste Land pairs up very well with City of Glass because of their common interest in fragmentation as both narrative tactic and cultural syndrome. Auster's much more skeptical of Eliot's project of reassembling the heap of broken images, though; I read Peter Stillman (senior) as a deranged "heroic" modernist, one who longs for a return not simply to the premodern but the prelapsarian.

Only the Coen brothers left at this point, and then we're done...


That really sounds like a course i should have taken.. I googled myself into your site, cus i'm having problems with my exam. I'm sposed to discuss the auteur theory in the light of modernism and postmodernism, witch Chinatown as example..

Got any hints for me?



Yes - don't ask anybody else to do your work for you. :)

That is a well-designed question, asking students to synthesize their understanding of theories that are slightly orthogonal to one another. I'm assuming your class read the Cahiers du Cinema critics, or Andrew Sarris's "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962," or maybe Peter Wollen if you discussed the auteur theory; they'd be good places to start. Cawelti's article is one of the best (and easily the most accessible) pieces on Chinatown and postmodernism.

And don't forget to cite your sources!

(cue corny public service announcement music)


Yeah i've read a lot (read too much, written too little), I just have problems structuring my thoughts and putting it all together.. But thanks anyway! (Horrible spelling mistakes should be blamed on me being norwegian)

Martin Rowson

My comic book version of The Waste Land is still in print in the UK, where Picador re-issued it in 1999. Try Amazon, although this is the UK edition (which the lawyers got hold of) and so is different from the US version (which was saved by the excellent parody defence). Try Amazon.


Ah, there it is.

I'd love to hear more about the legal troubles (from the Eliot estate?). What changes were made in the UK edition?

Martin Rowson

Essentially I wasn't allowed to quote anything from the poem, apart from the title (subtly different) and the chapter titles. This prohibition included quoting the quotations, which are, apparently, covered by compilation copyright. I was hoping, when the book first came out in 1990, that when it came out of copyright in 2015 I could immediately make the porno version of the poem, as revenge served up cold, but then they extended the term of copyright to 70 years, and by 2035 I'll be 76 and probably betond caring.

Anyway, you'll see the changes in the Penguin/Picador edition, and I'm not alone in facing the full legal wrath of the Eliot estate - unlike Andrew Lloyd Webber, of course


I've heard equally infuriating stories about the Eliot estate barring quotations from academic works, or charging fees so exorbitant as to effectively bar them; so much for academic fair use.

At any rate, the gauntlet has been thrown - let some young turk in 2035 produce the all-porno Waste Land. Perhaps we can start grooming our children now.

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