I’ve been irked by the dismal state of Robert E. Howard criticism in recent years, and I’m planning on getting back to the subject next month — which I’m thinking could be LitCrit Month. (Howard criticism, of course, has been a big part of my life — with examples from over thirty years collected in the eBook The Dark Barbarian That Towers Over All.)
Courtesy Howard, and more specifically my Hammett studies, I’ve spent a lot of time poking around in period jargon from the 1920s and 30s, so naturally I was appalled when I saw a recent Word of the Week on the Two-Gun Raconteur blog, covering the term flivvers.
It reported: noun 1. slang. an automobile, especially one that is small, inexpensive and old.
The image is of a 1935 Chevy — Robert E. Howard had a Chevy.
I dropped blog-holder Damon Sasser a note to say that flivvers are Fords — everyone knows that, if in fact you know anything about the period at all.
I can see how someone today, surfing around on the net, digging out info, might think a flivver is just an old car. Wrong, but people like that don’t know any better.
And that’s the problem lately with REH litcrit — people who don’t know anything in detail, who just retread standard boilerplate descriptions (and position their statements as if they had come up with the ideas), who methodically dig through stories looking for any reference to a character type or motif and then lay them all out in tedious detail (what I call the “Lovecraft and Cats” or “Howard and Feminism” essays).
The Word of the Week series is especially pointless — for people, I guess, too lazy to look meanings up for themselves. I can’t believe Damon picked this series up — but if he is using it, he should do some butt-kicking so at least the meanings are accurate.