RARA-AVIS: DeLillo, Murakami, Kafka, hard-boiled definition

From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 19 Apr 2000

A. N. Smith writes:

<< "Isn't the work of Don DeLillo and other postmodern writers
 somewhat hardboiled because--" No, it isn't. >>

The problem here is that qualifier, "somewhat." I might not say DeLillo is hard-boiled, but I might say he is somewhat hard-boiled. His prose is sometimes too stylized to qualify for erstwhile avian James Doherty's insistence on colloquial language. DeLillo's Running Dog, if not toying with classic hard-boiled, is at least fooling with political thrillers. It has that killer who is obsessed with guns (an obsession that Jack Gladney of White Noise also takes on). The novel also has the pornography macguffin, and forbidden porno has its place in the hb canon.

Your post raises an intriguing problem about influence and definition. Japanese (postmodern?) novelist Murakami was interested in hard-boiled enough so that the word "hard-boiled" appears in the title of one novel (at least as it is translated in the U.S.). His "Wild Sheep Chase" has Chandler all over it, but it mutates into something else and never is too too hard-boiled even early on, even if it has a ton of traditional hard-boiled elements. Perhaps some of the list members from Japan could comment on Murakami and his native reception and whether or not he is discussed in light of crime fiction in his native country. What we need is a tough colloquial PI novel with a hero pitted against institutional forces and working for a suspicious client, but that in the reading does not deliver a hard-boiled experience. That would be something to investigate.

Arguments about taxonomy seem to me largely valuable for how they illuminate a work. I'm not going to say Kafka is or is not hard-boiled, but what happens if you think about him in some of the terms of hb, or in terms of
"popular" fiction (and I don't know anything about magazine/periodical fiction in central Europe in the early part of this century). Here's the comparison: I don't think Macbeth is a comedy or Romeo and Juliet a send-up, but I have occasionally found some profit by thinking of them is such terms.
     Waxing foolishly literary--and suddenly posting, Doug 3

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