RARA-AVIS: Re: RARA-AVIS Digest V4 #235

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 25 Apr 2002


Re your comment below:

> Jim,
> I'm making some progress. Now you concede hard
> boiled is not solely
> language. You hadn't done that earlier.

I'm not conceding anything because I NEVER, repeat, NEVER said that hard-boiled was solely a matter of language. Consequently, I can't concede that I was wrong about something I never asserted in the first place.

> I'll now
> have to get you to concede
> that being born wealthy and/or having a good
> education does not preclude a
> character from being hard boiled.

Again, I never said education precluded one from being hard-boiled. And I never said that wealth, by itself, absolutely precluded him from being hard-boiled. I DID say that coming from a particular class was as close to a disqualifying factor as there was, but class isn't defined exclusively by wealth. It's defined by a particularly elegant, and aristocratic world view.

> There is free
> will. People can have
> their situation change either by their own volition
> or because
> circumstances change.

Certainly there is free will but it's not absolute, and it can't completely overcome upbringing. You can't "will" yourself to be left-handed if you're naturally right-handed. You can train yourself to use your left hand, but you'll always going against your own natural inclination. Similarly, you can't "will" yourself to inelegant or colloquial if you weren't raised that way. You can't "will" yourslef to have the common touch. Neither does the acquisition of wealth suddenly make one naturally aristocratic.

  A few examples of characters
> in the best 111 who
> ostensibly do not meet all your criteria are Richard
> Bone, (Cutter and
> certainly Mo also would fall under this category,
> but they didn't make the
> cut.) Bruce Wayne, James Figueroas, Milo
> Milodragovitch and C W Sugrue
> (Crumley, who I always considered a writer of hard
> boiled fiction, can't
> restrain himself from having his two protagonists
> sometimes write some very
> lyrical passages)

I'm not familiar with Bone (other than from the film version, CUTTER'S WAY) or Figueroas and therefore can't comment. I don't consider Batman hard-boiled. Miodragovitch and Sugrue are hard-boiled because they are tough and colloquial.
> An assassin like James Bond you say is not hard
> boiled.

At least you're quoting me accurately on that. A man's line of work doesn't make him hoard-boiled or non-hard-boiled. Hard-boiled is a question of attitude, and upper-class British gentleman James Bond doesn't have it.

> It seems to me any
> lawyer or doctor would be disqualified by you.

Depends on the doctor or the lawyer. Perry Mason certainly was hard-boiled, particularly in his earliest appearances. The reason he was hard-boiled? He was tough and colloquial. DA McCoy on LAW & ORDER is hard-boiled. You wanna know why? It's because he's tough and colloquial. Dr. John Thorndyke was not hard-boiled because, while he could be pretty tough, he wasn't colloquial. Quincy, on the other hadn,being both tough and colloquial, is hard-boiled. You see a pattern here yet?

> There must be series
> featuring criminologists. I haven't read them, but
> they must be too educated
> to be hard boiled.

Education isn't the defining factor. Toughness and colloquialism is.

>How about the commisioner of
> police in a big city? He
> figures to be wealthy . . .

Not if he's honest, unless he won the lottery or has inheritied wealth. He'd make a comfortable living, but he wouldn't be nearly as well off as a comparably placed CEO in private business. Trust me on this one, I know whereof I speak.

> . . . but he would have had to come
> up the ranks to be hard
> boiled.

I'd say so.

> Any one or two word description seems
> inadequate to me and any
> arbitary means of disualifying someone can't serve
> either.

Then don't accept it. But don't get yourself in such an uproar because I do. Hard-boiled is basically a simple type of literature. That's its appeal, and that's why its basic components can be reduced to a short phrase. The shorter the phrase, frankly, the LESS likelihood of some character being "unfairly" disqualifying.

While we're on that subject, what's the difference anyway. Qualifying as "hard-boiled" whether by my definiton or anyone else's isn't a guarantee of quality. It jst means that a charcter fits certain defined parameters. It doesn't mean that that character or the story inwhich he appears is any less likely to be a piece of meretricious crap. Nor does not fitting those parameters make him any more likely to be a meretricious piece of crap. It just means that one character's hard-boiled and theo ther isn't.


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