RE: RARA-AVIS: In defense of "Screwed"

From: Dave (
Date: 17 Feb 2003

Read David Goodis' short story "The Plunge" (or really any of his novels). "Screwed" doesn't really fit in this case, nor does it fit with Orson Welles' terrific "Mr. Arkadin" (where the protagonists actions saves himself physically but dooms himself psychically - btw. After thinking about it, I agree with you Al- psychic doom is necessary). You can make a case of "screwed" with several Thompson novels, but doom fits better with most, where these characters are born broken and are doomed from birth - it's just a matter of when it's going to catch up to them. With Pop. 1280, Nick Corey gets away with murder and is going to continue geta way with murder, but psychically he's doomed. I don't think "screwed" fits with James M. Cain either. Here you got normal, sane people who cross a line, and once they do they're doomed, it's inevitable. Again, though, noir seemes to be something that's tough to pin down. I guess it's like pornography - you know it when you see it!


-----Original Message----- From: [mailto:] On Behalf Of Bludis Jack Sent: Monday, February 17, 2003 11:09 AM To: Subject: RARA-AVIS: In defense of "Screwed"

I have always thought that "Screwed" was the simplest definition of noir. After seeing several good arguments, I have to conclude that it is only one of many good ones -- and not bad, considering it's single word.

Although yes, a person can get screwed repeatedly and still come back with resilience, as most private eyes do, I think the screwed definition is a kind of ultimate. The lead charater is scewed by the character's own faults which are so ingrained the he or she takes no practical escape available.

"Doomed" doesn't work, because if we are at the base of a damn when it breaks, we are doomed -- nothing noir about that.

Jim Doherty gave a comprehensive list of "film noir" where the main character is not screwed, only hardboiled. How I missed all of those, especially *Farewell My Lovely* is beyond me. I guess I identified too closely with Moose Malloy. Another such film noir which does not end bad for the mostly screwed protagonist, is "The Big Clock."

After thining about the subject off and on for several years now, I conclude that most private-eye novels are not noir because the private-eye generally comes out on top, although most of the ones in old black-and-white film are
"film noir."

I still contend thought that *Chinatown* was noir in content but not a "film noir."

I think later this year when we discuss Simenon's non-Maigrets, assuming I remember them correctly, we may see where the "screwed" definition comes in.

PI novels are hardboiled, tough.

Many other stories and novels are noir with screwed characters like Cain's.

"Film noir" has to do with how a story is portrayed on the screen.

It looks to me that it's an individutal choice as to whether we separate "Film Noir" from stories and books that are noir.

Whether we agree or not, it seems to me, from what I see on this list that we all generally like the same kind of books no matter what we tag them.


PS: And an aside, my deceased father-in-law once said of movies in general, that if they didn't do such stupid things in the beginning, there would be no story.

===== Hollywood Mysteries of the Early Fifties

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