Paris: Library of Public Information, 2004. – 344 p. ; 22cm. – (Studies and research). ISBN 2-84246-087-1: € 25
Apart from preparing for competitions, I must admit that I am not a big reader of studies on French cultural practices. Therefore, I cannot write with certainty that this sociological analysis is true to the genre or that it revolutionizes it. In fact, to a thriller reader, I read this book like Narcissus trying to see my reflection in the pond. And I liked it. But although Annie Colovald and Eric Neve really tried to stay accessible, to analyze without too much jargon …, I don’t know if Reading Black will suit all readers of detective novels.
The two authors assume that this state commission, through the prestigious Public Library of Information, proves that the thriller is no longer considered sub-literature. But if you become a laboratory rat after being rejected by the cultural elite, it does not necessarily predispose you to appreciate the process. We must not forget that readers aged 40 to 50 knew the time when reading thrillers was completely frowning. And even today, none of the great literary awards distinguished the novel published in the so-called detective collection.
Move in the dark
The first part of the study focuses on the editorial production of the genre and relays set by enthusiasts: associations, festivals, the Internet … In twenty years, the genre has experienced significant growth. The work of 813 associations and personalities such as Claude Mesplede preceded this legitimacy. “Our temporary impression is that the police officer manages to create a density of militant investments, places of exchange and discussions without much equivalent. * However, without the significant weight of selling the genre in the turnover of publishing houses, the interest of cultural decision-makers would undoubtedly be less. The future of “Serie Noire”, the abolition of which is now being considered, will undoubtedly be rich in lessons.
Structured and instructive, this introduction should enable all librarians to better navigate in the dark. And it’s even harder for me to criticize it because it is based on information published for five years on the Mauvais genre website.
Coherence of a heterogeneous public
The second part is dedicated to the core of the survey: the analysis of about forty interviews with main readers. And that’s what we can regret: this reading won’t tell you what encourages occasional readers to visit the shelves of detective novels in your libraries. Moreover, to the question “Do you think that we have solved the enigma of the standard profile of the polar reader with this study?”, Eric Neveu honestly answers: “No, because there is no typical profile, and therefore no enigma of this kind to solve! However, despite the heterogeneity (diplomas, professions, political position) of the thriller readers, two sociologists managed to identify some constants, including the social gap with the middle of origin, biographical breaks and gender disruption … Damn! Fans of thrillers are decidedly modern, “in the sense that they undoubtedly actively participate in the movement for recomposing what is related to men and women, where they blur the great opposition between investing in men’s” world of things “and” world of relationships “with women.”
Loyalty and respect for people who agreed to answer questions for a few hours: this is the basis of this survey. The most beautiful example is the sympathetic and nuanced portrait of Paul Maugendre, who has been tirelessly publishing hundreds of readers’ notes for several years. In their research, the authors found that “the police officer is one of the cultural assets that conducts a relaxed, playful, non-ascetic attitude towards culture.” And this “informalized”, relaxed attitude towards cultural consumption does not mean the absence of reflection, critical capacity. Many of the readers they meet are very skilled and reflective in playing with narrative codes that they master very well. In our opinion, police reading is an indicator of substantial changes in the attitude towards cultural works. “