The Life and Times of Harry Lavender – Related Text Bill Simon – Subverting the Popular Culture Genre Marele Day: “it allowed a greater questioning of traditional roles” – On Writing a Feminist Detective Novel •Representation of female roles in our society is an important issue in this text •Use of this genre accommodates the visualisation of the city of Sydney •Day’s feminist concerns are expressed through her subversion of the male dominated hard boiled detective genre •Popular culture tends to walk a very fine line between invention and convention and this is perhaps the reason why a genre can be successful in conveying an author’s message •Valentine proves through her actions alone that she is as good a conventional (‘male’) private eye •Claudia contends with murder, violence and guns – the bread and butter of the genre, and traditionally male domains •The hero must conventionally prove his/her worth and be seen as morally fit to be a heroic figure •The narrative convention of the detective genre focuses on the protagonist and her/his actions so there is little reprieve from the violent world •Other conventions – fast pace, sexual liaisons and escapades •Hard boiled detective genre is strongly connected to sexuality, where the gun becomes a powerful extension of the phallus, and the power and motivation of the detective is his physical strength and power •Claudia does not carry a gun with her at all times, but is perfectly capable of using one if the situation arises. Is this a conscious decision on the author’s behalf to deprive her detective of the masculinist phallic accessory that the genre demands? Or, is it Claudia’s physical fitness, wit and cunning can outsmart most of her opponents without resorting to physical violence? Claudia does battle with the ‘gun’ in the climatic sauna scene, with both women naked, signifying that both women are stripped of their status, relying instead on cunning and pure strength. Curiously, Sally (Harry’s illegitimate daughter) introduces the gun into this scene, and she is a beautiful model – an object of male fantasy. Claudia strikes her on the face to attack the superficial reality so valued by Sally and her cohorts. On a literal level, this scene is a test of the heroine, and she succeeds in conquering the villain. On a more significant level, the participants in the scene, the setting and the symbolism imbued within the characters make this scene powerful. •Multiculturalism – all the good guys are ‘real’ Aussies, whilst all the ad guys are from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds •The context of the setting – Australia’s colonial past – is represented by Claudia and her band of idiosyncratic mates, who win over the newcomers. This theme connects the novel with traditional Australian literature •The city of Sydney is represented as a place of corruption and violence, and only in the outback is it possible to find solace and a Utopia of sorts – another common trait of traditional Australian literature •Claudia is a role model of a person; a woman who can look after herself and others, and is tough, sexy and sleazy. •Carol Rawlins is parallel character to Claudia – two powerful female role models – unique in CF texts •Popular culture is very powerful presence in forming our identity both as individuals and as a society.Order now
Ms Day realised the importance of not being didactic or serious in her attempt to communicate with a mass audience, so therefore the use of a popular culture genre and its very subversion has served her well Juliana Gallagher – What do you think is the role of Claudia Valentine in The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender? •As the protagonist, Claudia is the detective responsible for solving the mystery of Mark Bannister’s death •She is distinguished from the conventional detective by her gender, and the fact that no concessions are made for it •Claudia is the main vehicle for conveying Marele Day’s feminist ideals to the modern reader •The novel’s first person narrative structure (? ) conforms to the conventions of the genre.
Through this device, Claudia Valentine is responsible for making the city of Sydney such a focal point in the novel •Claudia Valentine – smart, sexy and sassy – originally assigned to investigate a death surrounded by mysterious circumstances. Marilyn Bannister, the dead man’s sister; suspects foul play in the death of her brother after receiving a note hinting at “Terminal Illness”. In her pursuit of the perpetrator, she relies on her wit, quick repartee, intelligence, but never on her looks, as she is not expecting any concessions due to her femininity – “The crims don’t discriminate, they’ll blow away a woman on their trail just as readily as a man”.
She eventually uncovers the felonious plan of the infamous Sydney underworld crime boss Harry Lavender (corrupt, cancer-riddled) •City of Sydney: “Her far horizons, her jewelled sea, her beauty and her terror” – novel •Claudia – desired by men – “You’ll look like the kind of woman who would enjoy a glass of champagne at two in the morning”. Such personal insights into Claudia’s private life and her mind are made possible through her first person narration (? ), inviting the reader to play the part of detective alongside Claudia. The success of the novel depends on the narrator (Claudia) gaining our trust. The reader is also encouraged to think for themselves, since they are presented with clues, such as the extracts from Harry’s book, which are not accessed by Claudia. Day creates a flawed heroine, which a careful audience can detect, and hence red herrings are used – e. g. nfounded suspicions involving Steve and Carol – a convention of the genre •Day appropriates the traditionally male dominated detective genre and expands its borders to be inclusive of women as opposed to having the female characters as mere accessories or sexual objects. Hence, the novel can be read as a feminine treatise, especially since no concessions are given to her gender. •Conforms to the conventions of the genre; •1) Fast and relentless narration – “Accelerate! Down the car park ramp! ” •2) Witty, sexually liberated style – “I’ll slip into something more comfortable, like your bed” •3) Tough, concise PI – “I leapt airborne into space” •4) Cynical and hyperbolic PI – “as long as I didn’t start haemorrhaging from the eyeballs, things would be all right! •Opening segment of novel is subverts the conventions of the genre – “I woke up feeling like death. The blonde slept on. Thank god the black suit was hanging in the wardrobe”. By using no specific gender, the reader is coaxed into assuming the protagonist is a male, like all conventional hard boiled detectives. This is intentional, with Day questioning traditional constructions and perceptions of gender roles both within and outside the conventions of the genre. •Claudia serves as a feminist ideal, whilst not preaching or acting as a politically correct prototype. We become aware of Claudia’s sexuality and vulnerability through her relationship with Steve. •The pop culture genre allows Day to physically map the city of Sydney.
Day exposes the corruption of the city as a direct contrast to rural areas, where incidentally Claudia’s children happily reside •Claudia unveils Sydney from an insider’s perspective, yet endows it with a sense of the exotic that only outsiders usually perceive. •This text provides a new way of examining ourselves, our city and the values that dominate our ideology Christy Hong – Is The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender a typical detective genre? •A novel of literary merit that subverts the male dominated detective genre •Day appropriates the traditionally male dominated genre of the hard boiled detective whilst obeying its conventions •The culprit of the novel is a major character and kills for personal, sycophantic reasons •Sex > love.
Claudia is too cynical to fall in love, but is not averse to carnal pleasure, as her liaison with Steve Angell demonstrates. •Crimes are explained rationally – no room for fantasy, and banal situations are avoided •Day subverts the genre – Claudia is tougher than the toughest traditional male detective and not at all feminine. •Claudia – cynic, quick wit (“Here’s $50. Give the bastards a run for my money”), tempered, assertive, self-reliant, sexually unrestricted, hard drinking and tough – characteristic of Phillip Marlowe, the quintessential male detective •Claudia’s painful past (“a girl too tall for her age”), unhappy childhood (father abandoned family) and adulthood (divorce, and two children living with her ex Greg).
This humanity presented Claudia as a good feminine model. Day has not created an extreme, politically-correct feminist hero, but a realistic feminist one, suitable for today’s society. Claudia does not preach about equality of opportunity, she practices it. •Carol Rawlins highlights the novel’s feminist perspective, as she is also tough, intelligent, aware, rational, unsentimental and honest, and adds depth to the characterisation of Claudia. •Sydney is depicted as the heartbeat of crime and pleasure, a place of corruption, violence and evil; that contrasts well with the portrayal of the country as a place of innocence, goodness and Utopian paradise.
It is not coincidental that Claudia’s children reside there, and at the conclusion of the text, Claudia, triumphant over the corruption and criminal activities of the city, travels to the country with her “Angel” – Steve Angell. This contrast is a timeless issue in Australian literature Su Langker – Marele Day’s The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender – SBHS •The aspect of issues and problems of the contemporary world is important as often questions focus on what the reader may have learnt about life from the novel •Opening – tongue-in-cheek salute to the blonde in the bed syndrome – establishes; •Important of the location of Sydney •Style – ‘tough talk’ •Lack of emotion – forgets the name of the blonde •Blonde is female = Subversion of genre + disparity – appearance versus reality. Day turns the subverting of conventional roles into a symbol for appearance and reality, which is a concern of all crime fiction (i. e. red herrings) •Valentine – unconventional female hard-boiled detective. The character is not a statement on feminism: “I knew I didn’t want to get up on a platform and preach about equality” (Day) •Conventional, marginalised existence – divorced, lives alone, two children who live in the country with their father. She has contacts – “Without contacts in this city, you’d be dead. And sometimes dead even with them” •“Claudia…a woman in her own right who maintained her identity. More importantly, she could be any woman.
Her background is that of full-time mother and wife who has redefined herself…contrast between this character and Phillip Marlowe (The Big Sleep)…a kind of existential hero…I also wanted Claudia to be someone you’d meet in real life, and no one in real life has no attachments to other people…She is as competent as her male counterparts, but she is not superwoman…she doesn’t necessarily win, nor is the criminal punished so…more like real life, than the neat ending you would get in an Agatha Christie novel” (Day) •The emphasis on real life; the avoidance of super-hero characteristics, contributes to the novel’s claim to literary merit. •Day introduces subtle feminisation of character; Valentine’s relationship with Angell – woman with her lover •She is really concerned with the safety of her children •Her methods of questioning people are full of sympathy and understanding – a gentler approach than Marlowe’s •She shows emotion in her reaction to the death of Robbie MacMillan. •TLACOHL – a site of discourse concerning the role played by women in late twentieth century Sydney, through the process of subversion of a popular genre, rather than by deep and meaningful discussion in a more sophisticated genre as a means of communicating with a mass audience •“The computer controlling the heart became a potent image that relates to images of the city and also, the computer in the heart is a ice juxtaposition of the heart in the computer, and that refers to that kind of dual scene between Claudia and the absent Harry Lavender” (Day, Lecture) •Opening – first person narrative, short sentences, disregard for strictly correct grammar, and a clipped style, simile •Lavender’s (absent) narration makes him more threatening – “intangible presence has a much stronger effect than direct confrontation – and his intrusion into Claudia’s narration reflects his intrusion into her life so that the form of the novel reflects its contents •The interruption of the conventional monologist detective narrative represents a subversion of the male detective fiction tradition and draws attention to the fact that the novel is not reality, but a construct •Claudia’s narrative is primary, linear, tough, staccato and in the style of the Chandler school; Harry’s is secondary (Extracts from Mark’s book), non-linear, gentle, introspective, poetic and effeminate •McRoberts – the reader learns about the genre through its subversion. The novel explores how literature is read, or constructed by the reader’s response. We learn that the reader brings meaning to a novel and therefore learn more about the literary experience. •Day – “I wanted to write a book about Sydney” (Lecture) •The setting reflects the concerns of the novel – appearance vs. reality (“So pretty and so innocent, the facade of lights covered a multitude of sins and one of those sins was murder”) – and the evil that insinuates itself into the city •Heart – a pervasive image used in the novel The constant concern of corruption behind a clean exterior –vividly expressed through the metaphor of the mushroom •There are two views of the city represented in the novel – Claudia’s and Harry’s •The city comes to life because it is personified – “A girl craning to see her reflection in a mirror of glass buildings” •Convention: the first murder is only an entry point for the PI into a larger world of corruption – not as wide a web as Chandler’s, because it focuses on Harry Lavender •She suspects her lover Angell, creating suspense •The plot turns into a hunt for the manuscript that would expose Harry and bring him to justice – Harry directs and protects Claudia from the beginning •Wordplay on mouse The suspense in the novel revolves around whether or not Claudia will find the manuscript and expose Harry as the cancer that is invading Sydney, before he manages to get the manuscript and do away with her •She does win – finds the manuscript – but Harry falls into a coma, and thus he escapes exposure and justice •Conventional ending – Claudia and her lover Angell escaping to happiness •Like most protagonists in CF, Claudia doesn’t change a great deal; but the readers gradually discover more sides to her character. Claudia has strong opinions about society, especially about the urban environment and development. She dislikes guns and violence, but is not afraid to walk the mean streets. Crime and corruption disgust her, especially that which lurks beneath a sweet exterior, like the sweet scent of Lavender. She is intelligent – SGHS, UNSW Hons.
She is the heart of the city – Valentine •Sally – opposite of Claudia – all surface, no heart, selfish, morally weak, alcoholic and emotionally weak. She exhibits fake grief at the funeral, but wasn’t too distraught to administer heroin to his dead body. She is the femme fatale of the traditional CF novel – the woman who first attracts the male hero, but turns out to be involved in the crime •Harry – villain. We learn about his motives through the extracts from Mark’s book. He is unrepentant, believes that posterity will revere him. He is at the centre of a web of corruption. His childhood was deprived. He delights in murder. He is a much more sophisticated and interesting ‘baddie’ than the racial stereotypes portrayed in Fleming’s 007 series; he alludes to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Steve Angell plays the role usually allocated to the ‘good woman’ – he doesn’t interfere, offers help when needed, is a agreeably supportive, intelligent, witty, romantic and sexy – he even cooks! •Claudia’s style predominates as she is the protagonist, and this domination of the narrative foreshadows her eventual domination of Lavender. •Day uses wordplays, allusions, puns. Claudia uses smart one-liners, metaphors and similes. •Symbolism – Harry having cancer is a metaphor for the corruption he has engendered in the city. His corruption eats away at the city, just as the cancer eats through his body, as his narrative eats into the novel, as the lavender crabs – the star sign for cancer – eats into the heart (representative of Valentine) on the computer screen