S. J. Rozan Interview: Paragraph-Building Exercise
QX: In one of our talks in Philadelphia, I remember you touched on the necessity of adhering to the conventions of the crime novel genre and of moving
beyond them at the same time; can you talk more about it here?
SJR: The conventions of the crime genre that I consider important are a strong, involving, foward-moving story; fully-realized characters; and a setting that
the reader can see, hear and smell. Additionally, the story must involve one or more problems (who? how? why?) the reader cares about solving. (The first
three are really just the “conventions” of good fiction, but a lot of “literary” fiction seems to be taking a pass on them these days.) Each subgenre, then, also
has its own conventions — the alienated private eye, the cop who’s a member of a team but a renegade at the same time, the brilliant amateur. These provide
the framework for the mythic quality I spoke about above.
In talking about moving beyond these conventions, I mean that a good crime novel must also be about something beyond its own story. The myths a society
uses are its ways of telling itself what’s important and how to act: courage, loyalty, kindness. They’re not just a recounting of who went where and did what.
We’re writing myths in this genre, and our stories are read that way. The entire reason art exists — oh, this is where Rozan goes way out on a limb — is that,
having developed the capacity for abstraction, we humans also became dependent on it. If I say to you, “Loyalty is important,” you and I are both bored. If I
say, “A man must be ready to die for a friend,” you may agree but tomorrow when someone asks you what we talked about you may not remember. If I tell you
a story in which a man gives up his life for a friend, and I tell it well, you’ll be touched and you’ll remember, and I will have gotten my belief about that value
across to you.
It’s when the conventions of the crime story are used but a writer doesn’t move beyond them, I think, that gives the genre the bad rap of being “clichéd.”
Based upon Rozan’s declaration above about incorporating particular values into her fiction, make a claim about “Going Home.”
Then offer a direct quotation or a concrete detail from the story (the primary source) to illustrate your assertion. Make sure you contextualize your quotation
and provide a lead-in to it.
Explain how that quotation or detail illustrates the assertion. This is your analysis.
Offer a direct quotation or a paraphrase or short illustration from a secondary source (this you can simply offer from your bank of knowledge).
Explain how that quotation or detail illustrates the assertion. This too is your analysis.
Reiterate your claim and explain its relevance to a theme you have discovered in other short stories this semester.
Indicate in parenthesis following the sentence the step under which each sentence falls.
Your paragraph should be a minimum of 250 words.
Your paragraph should look like this:
In one interview, S. J. Rozen describes the necessary qualities of a good story that make it take on a “mythic quality,” one of which is a setting that the reader
can “see, hear, and smell.” (1) In Rozen’s story “Going Home,” readers can experience cold, for example, in New York that is “mean” and snarky” and a
dampness that is “toady as it slip[s] between your skin and your bones” (p. 332). (2) This depiction of cold that seems more personal than objective startles
the reader by its starkness and conveys the psychology of the narrator. That is, he seems to be setting himself at odds with weather, as though they were
enemies. (3) Most people would reject this notion that weather is an enemy and instead look upon the weather as a force, a by-product of nature. (4)
Nevertheless, when the reader sees those words—snarky, slips, skin—the images that come to mind definitely denote cold and alienation. (5) In fact, the
narrator seems to console himself with this ideal of home being a place where even the weather embraces him as part of its own. In telling himself this story
of an environment being not at odds with him but as part of his very being, we can see the influence of cultural stories that do comfort us. These stories
about place and identity are those that we can lean on to draw strength and resolve, and we have seen this same “ideal” in “The Somebody” where Chato
cannot imagine himself as an entity apart from his connection to his neighborhood. (6)