Re: RARA-AVIS: Junkies and hookers (was What is this REALLY about?)

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 28 May 2000

Jess wrote:

"Any fiction based on them wouldn't be hardboiled; simply committing a crime does not make on hardboiled. It'd be something between tragedy and farce. Maybe there are prostitutes and junkies out there whose lives fit neatly into the noir or hardboiled categories. I haven't met them, though, and based on the ones I've known, I'd have a hard time believing that they were either noir or hardboiled, as I define them."

Leaving aside the hardboied vs. noir debate (although I do have opinions about what separates them, I often tend to lump them as general terms), I'm not talking real people here, I'm talking literary, factual or fictional, creations. For instance, I'm pretty fascinated by some pretty reprehensible characters in books, but I wouldn't want to meet them. This was actually brought home to me by two movies: Basketball Diaries and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Both were books I really liked, but I found it very hard to watch the very same behavior in the movie. Seeing it was just foul, if not disgusting, whereas the narration style of each book gave me enough abstract distance to see the humor in the same situations. At least in Leaving Las Vegas, for all of its romanticism of self-destruction, they weren't presented as positive role models.

So I'm talking about a stylized depcition of out of control lives, where they still hang on to just enough dignity and self-worth to hope, something the real-life counterparts have usually lost.

Marianne wrote:

"There's nothing romantic, nothing sexy, nothing very gripping about people helplessly out of control."

This is assuming that we are looking for romanticism or sexy when we read this stuff (and often we are, you don't get much more romantic than Chandler, for instance). However, I often do find the fictional depiction of people careening out of control (but not quite all the way there, which is, I guess, where the romanticism comes back in) quite gripping -- for instance, pretty much all of David Goodis, Terrill Lankford's Shooters, Kent Harrington's Dark Ride, Vicki Hendricks' Miami Purity, etc.


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