Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: The meaning of hardboiled

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 11 Jul 2000

I've always had a weakness for trying out artistic definitions ("what is hardboiled", "what is rock music", etc.) Call me goofy, but in a weird way I find it kind of fun. I do try to restrain myself in public, though. :)

I do think if you think through these things, though, it can help shed some light on authors and books, help you make decisions about what's good or bad based on more than "I like it" or "I don't like it." Of course, everything ultimately boils down to that, but still, I like to read or hear opinions that have a certain logic to them. And sometimes you can surprise yourself. For example, I've changed my mind about Parker. I used to really hate his stuff, but now I think he's okay, once you realize that he's not really writing (at least in my opinion) hardboiled fiction.
(As an aside, I think there are writers out there who are writing private eye novels that aren't hardboiled. The two often are conflated but they're not the same thing.)

But which is
> the more interesting
> (and/or productive) question: Is Raymond Carver (to
> use an arguable case)
> hardboiled? Or: Is Raymond Carver worth reading?
> Dick Lochte

Well, obviously, it depends on the context. If I'm recommending books to friends, then the second is more important. If I'm engaging in my peculiar hobby, then the first -- you always have to test a definition by bringing up weird cases. In this case, I was responding to someone who argued that hb was all about the clipped, terse, slangy peculiarities of the American brand of English. Well, Carver writes that way, but I've never heard anyone call him
"hardboiled". (For what it's worth, I don't like Carver's work in any way.)


===== Doug Bassett

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