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The Double, the Labyrinth and the Locked Room

Metaphors of Paradox in Crime Fiction and Film

Ilana Shiloh

Traditional detective fiction celebrates the victory of order and reason over the senseless violence of crime. Yet in spite of its apparent valorization of rationality, the detective genre has been associated from its inception with three paradoxical motifs – the double, the labyrinth and the locked room. Rational thought relies on binary oppositions, such as chaos and order, appearance and reality or truth and falsehood. Paradoxes subvert such customary distinctions, logically proving as true what we experientially know to be false.
The present book explores detective and crime-mystery fiction and film from the perspective of their entrenched metaphors of paradox. This new and intriguing angle yields fresh insights into a genre that has become one of the hallmarks of postmodernism.

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Table of Contents

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Acknowledgments .................................................................................. ix Introduction ............................................................................................ 1 Prologue The Deconstruction of Reason in Poe’s Tales of Ratiocination ............. 11 Part One—The Double ................................................................................ 25 Chapter One The Double ............................................................................................. 27 Chapter Two Existential Doubles: Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.............. 37 Chapter Three Subversive Doubles: Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley ..... 57 Chapter Four False Doubles: Christopher Nolan’s Memento....................................... 77 Part Two—The Labyrinth............................................................................ 87 Chapter Five The Labyrinth ......................................................................................... 89 Chapter Six Avatars of the Labyrinth: Jorge Luis Borges’s “Death and the Compass”...................................... 97 Chapter Seven Justice as a Labyrinth: The Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There................................................................. 111 viii The Double, the Labyrinth and the Locked Room Chapter Eight The Book as a Labyrinth: Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves ........ 119 Part Three—The Locked Room................................................................ 149 Chapter Nine The Locked Room ................................................................................ 151 Chapter Ten The Locked Room of the Self: Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy .................................................... 159 Epilogue ..................................................................................................... 167 Endnotes..................................................................................................... 171 Bibliography .............................................................................................. 175 Index........................................................................................................... 183

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