Re: RARA-AVIS: Why Are You Here?

From: John & Carrie (
Date: 25 Jan 2000

Teri said:

> So, how about you? Ever given any thought to why you're on THIS list and
> not another?

I've always been attracted to the outré®® it books or movies or art or music or whathaveyou. At the same time, I've always been fascinated by the
"junk" and detritus that our culture leaves laying around. Hence, I'll take William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon over Henry James or Ernest Hemingway, Peter Greenaway or Luis Bunuel over Vincent Minelli or Stephen Spielberg, Patti Smith or Lou Reed over Frank Sinatra or Irving Berlin, Joan Miro or Jackson Pollock over Rembrandt or Reubens, and so on.

When it comes to noir fiction ( and it's inevitable, I think, when talking noir that hard-boiled creeps in...not to start one of those endless arguments over what's noir, what's hard-boiled...if there is a difference), I admire the transgressive nature of it. It's aggressive, gets into your face, grabs you by the back of your neck and and thrashes you around until you're all mangled by it. It appeals to the trouble-maker in me that wants to see the bad guy (or gal) get away with test the limits of what's proper, go beyond the boundaries of what's permissible, knowing that there's no going back.

Noir intends to shock (most of the time anyway). Like Neil Smith mentioned, it takes the ordinary into the extraordinary and takes extreme positions. It speaks to the dark side in us that ordinarily would never do some of the shit that noir protagonists do, and vicariously lets us peep into that dark world that we barely remember when we wake up from those godawful dreams we have some times.

It's amazing for me to read guys like James M. Cain, for example, pulling the stunts in his work that he did when the provincial/puritanical/white-bread point of view still had de facto control over the media. Or to read Jim Thompson coming up with these awful scenarios that he'd whip up in a couple of weeks, often terribly crafted, but still knock your socks off with the horrible outcomes.

Noir is stuff that scares you. The way people f**k each other over, the way primal impulses are laid bare, the way consequences aren't that important except for the thrill of the's a reminder how naughty we can really be. If we're just given a chance.


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