Re: RARA-AVIS: The meaning of hardboiled

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 12 Jul 2000

There's really an anti-Carver backlash in sway? How come nobody told me? I thought my dislike of this writer was very much an eccentric, minority position.

> At times Carver was solid hard-boiled though I
> doubt he saw it as a goal.
> His voice like that of John Gregory Dunne, Nelson
> Algren, Scott Smith, Jim
> Harrison, Joyce Carol Oates, and others not usually
> classified as hard-boiled
> reveal patches of the world where, toughness rules
> but people "stand up"
> anyway, where hopes are leavened by despair, and
> experience smashes holes
> through optimism. As Kevin or someone else said
> here recently, it's the
> center of the writing that makes its hard-boiled,
> not the presence of a
> detective, the inclusion of cynical dialogue, or any
> of the other "hallmarks"
> of the genre.

Well, of course, people can define hb pretty much however they want, so if your working definition lets in Carver, more power to you, I guess. But I should say I picked Carver because I thought he was a pretty clear example of someone who wrote Hemingwayesque-derived prose and who *wasn't* hardboiled. Oh, well. :)

Some of the other writers you cite are interesting to look at. I particularly admire Dunne's True Confessions, which I first read when I was about 14 or 15 years old and which has stayed with me to this day. I think that's clearly a hb novel, and a damn good one.


===== Doug Bassett

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