I've stayed away from this rehash (always welcome, always
welcome) of our foundational discussion.
However, this time I think I have it: noir has to be about
characters, about what goes on in their minds; the
protagonists of noir novels almost always face the void,
either because they are on edge or because they are thrown
into the void (I don't think I need to explain the void,
since we are all adults here). By contrast, in much of
hardboiled literature the protagonist may face the world, may
face the cruelest and most corrupt enemies, individual or
collective, but he does not face the void. The void can take
many forms, of course, and those (unpredetermined) forms will
not always be the same on the page as on screen.
In this scheme, Franz Kafka, Nathanael West and Charles
Willeford would be quintessential noir; Hammett, Chandler and
Leonard not at all. Hemingway sometimes, perhaps all the time
depending on what one reads into him.
There, let's declare it done.
Best, and in case I don't return before Christmas, have a
wonderful one and a great year 2004.
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