Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why do we read crime fiction?

Quoting the following from Dorothy L. Sayers:

"The art of self-tormenting is an ancient one, with a long and honourable literary tradition. Man, not satisfied with the mental confusion and unhappiness to be derived from contemplating the cruelties of life and the riddle of the universe, delights to occupy his leisure moments with puzzles and bugaboos. The pages of every magazine and newspaper swarm with cross-words, mathematical tricks, puzzle-pictures, enigmas, acrostics, and detective-stories, as also with stories of the kind called `powerful' (which means unpleasant), and those which make him afraid to go to bed."

Detectives Beyond Borders's Peter Rozovsky asks:

Sayers' 79-year-old observation may provide fresh insight into contemporary crime stories and why we read them. Does it? To what extent do her observations still hold?

I commented:

I think Sayers' observation speaks to fiction readers' desire to experience something beyond their daily routine. There are any number of reasons we read crime fiction, but I think the main one is to play at being the hero or villain, to consider what we'd do in the same situations.


Todd Mason said...

Crime fiction deals with extreme situations...much as adventure fiction does, or fantastic fiction usually does. The heightened sense of life, particularly in the face of death or other havoc, makes for potentially good drama...or even fiction...

Peter Rozovsky said...

I liked Sayers' observation because it is funny, tongue-in-cheek and accute at the same time.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"