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

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 11 Jul 2000

Dick wrote:

"We know what hardboiled is: it's the kind of stuff we like."

Ah, the Potter Stewart [obscenity] test, "I know it when I see it."

Actually, I have to agree with this. As I read and write more criticism, I become more and more convinced it is largely based on an attempt to rationalize gut responses (while recognizing my gut's taste can evolve). Of course, that doesn't stop me from continuing to try to define things, including hardboiled and noir.

And I think Doug B put his finger on the other appeal of classification, finding new authors I might like as much as the ones I currently know. I recently got a Rough Guide (why don't they publish any on books?) to a type of music with which I am trying to better familiarize myself. Well, I knew the names I knew, but couldn't figure out how to move on from them. I was thinking how much it would have helped if they had included a line like, "If you like this, you should try this . . ." And that's what I get from the debates over classification, the examples and groupings of authors, so I can say, Hey, I like these three, but who's
[blank]? I'll have to try reading [blank].


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