If noir deals with the condition of modern man, who works harder than any slave did, who is basically unhappy despite being told and trying to convince himself that he has a magnificent life, a magnificent standard of living, a bright future as a retiree and a future for the offspring he has coproduced, then humor is not an extraneous element -- we are dealing with a paradox, or rather, a glaring contradiction between life as lived and the propaganda that makes that life bearable.
While alienation, fear and despair are not intrinsically funny, the contradiction pointed above as well as the forms that propaganda takes do have a strong element of humor, sometimes farce, and almost always irony. Often, the situation is surreal.
Franz Kafka, the father of us all modern noirists, understood this very well.
Noir is not new because the condition of modern man is not new. However, that condition is getting worse and there is a growing conscience of it. With that conscience come new writers who want to give their version of the situation. With or without humor.
Kevin hints at a possible con in the rise of the new noir movement. I say that instead the con is in the situation, in fact, the situation IS a con. How the con is treated depends on each writer's sensibility, the environment he knows and how well he can express himself. In other words, on talent and craft.
What is bothersome in such accusations is that the accuser would implicitly know that other writers SHOULD be doing -- not an advisable stance, in my opinion. Reading is as optional as writing, after all. Literature is a game, an artifice. Establishing rules for others is not generally accepted, though it has been tried, especially by critics who can't write.
I say let's leave the new noirists to their own devices, judge the results the only way they can be judged, as individual works of fiction. You can't judge a "movement" and frankly, I doubt that there is one. And whatever publishers write about the books they publish one should not take as seriously as the books themselves.
Actually, I was looking for a street...
PRIME EXAMPLE OF THE MODERN NOIR CONDITION: Loitering!
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