RE: RARA-AVIS: Re: Why are you here?

From: Juri Nummelin (
Date: 28 Jan 2000

On Thu, 27 Jan 2000 wrote:

> So a noir world, darker than the souls of those caught in it? Reinhold
> Niebuhr's wrote a book in the 20s or 30s, Moral Man and Immoral Society:
> thesis is something like individuals have sin, but combinations of
> individuals (corporations, unions, society) create more badness than
> the sum of the individuals.

This sounds like a good analysis, but one must remember that there are only couple of HB writers who can analyze this situation (Chandler, Hammett, Stark, Ellroy to some extent, Pelecanos from those few pages I've read so far), most of them simply describe it. And do this somewhat unconsciously. This doesn't diminish their achievements.

> I would agree, except for the proletarian view of the rich as born
> and brought-up bad--they're different from you and me, as Fitzgerald once said,
> and I think many HB novelists would agree, though not in the positive way
> Fitzgerald may have allowed. I'll qualify that to say that Chandler, for
> instance, seems to distinguish between the ones that made the money (the
> entrepreneurs) and their children, who always had the money.

In Chandler, those who made the money, are described with nostalgia
(like father Sternwood). So far you're right. But doesn't Chandler also point out that you can't make the money without being bad? Or at least becoming a failure, like the author (kingdom for a name!) in "The Long Goodbye". Hardboiled literature is proletarian, has always been that - the pulps were for the working men (women? I don't know). Hence the racism in early HB, the rich had the privilege to have a tolerant view towards minorities and women. So the goddam S.S. Van Dines seem more liberal than most of the pulps.

> And it's a society that favors the rich and powerful--in the US that
> translates into a country that hasn't lived up to its promise, so a larger
> sense of social betrayal that perhaps can't be transferred to other
> countries(?).

Well, maybe it can, since there seems to come a lot of interesting hardboiled stuff from Britain. But maybe this explains the fact that the most interesting hardboiled literature in the US seems pretty dark and desperate.

> Hence the special satisfaction of social or class revenge
> when someone rich or connected gets to suffer, in part because the PI or
> character causing the suffering is outside the
> social-judicial-governmental network.

But there's also sadness, like in Ross Macdonald.


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