Re: RARA-AVIS: What is this REALLY about?

Date: 28 May 2000

> but I don't think you can say they're not hardboiled
GOOD! Tell, me, then, what you mean by "hard-boiled", because ones I've met were only "hard-boiled" in the peculiar sense that things had gone so badly wrong (with their lives and especially) in their heads that most of the ability to control the direction of their lives had been boiled out of them. That doesn't get me very far. It gets me into "noir", perhaps; but these are only the secondary characters, the set dressing. There's nothing romantic, nothing sexy, nothing very gripping about people helplessly out of control.

Does this suggest that the protagonists of all hb crime fiction are people who are injured by life and circumstances, but retain something human and dignified in themselves, including a thirst for justice - a justice which the law isn't providing and which they have to step beyond the law to look for? You see, I could live with that. These are valuable and stoical characters. A lot of interesting fiction fits this, from oral epic and classical tragedies onwards. (And as someone on one of my other groups has just written, "I've always prefered Batman to Superman.")

But one thing (among many, but I've only had one cup of coffee so far this morning) is that, unless you accept, without any kind of thought, the crude stereotype of women as incapable of anything except being tearful victims waiting for some strong man to rescue them from the vile whatnot (and I have to say right away that I've never found infantilism very interesting), this certainly does NOT exclude women from the protagonist centre of hardboilery. Or black detectives. (Yes, I like Walter Mosley very much.) Or amateurs. Or anybody showing courage in the face of great odds.

When I was a kid, I used to read Dick Tracy comics. When I got into my teens and started reading Hemingway, I found out what was wrong with them. And stopped.


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