Re: RARA-AVIS: Dumb Question by a Non-Hard-Boiled Reader

Bob Toomey (
Sun, 05 Dec 1999 22:14:24 -0500

James Rogers wrote:

> It seems like mysteries _ought _to produce a lot of absurdist books, but as
> I try to think of them, all I can come up with are a bunch of usually
> not-very-funny burlesques of the genre.

Jim Thompson is mostly an absurdist. The ending of THE GETAWAY -- excised in the movie versions -- is a masterpiece of absurdist horror, a descent into a paranoid comic inferno, like something out of Ambrose Bierce. Actually, that ending would make a very interesting movie in itself. POP. 1280 is an absurd nightmare, another descent, this time into madness.

> Actually, I think some of the
> _real_ hardboiled stuff has a kind of comic aspect, as in James M.
> Cain....where the world isn't so much Chandler-corrupt as it is
> Beckett-hopeless.

But wasn't Chandler a superb comic writer? It doesn't get mentioned often, but it's why I reread him. He was very funny, not just with the wisecracks, although nobody cracked them better, but the whole weary world view -- been there, done that, had that done to me, didn't learn a damn thing from it. And Marlowe saw himself as an absurd anachronism, a White Knight sliding down the poker and balancing very badly.


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