Re: RARA-AVIS: Question for Mr. Sallis

From: Mario Taboada (
Date: 23 Feb 2004

A quick followup to Jim's comments on "noir". He mentions the original, "homemade" noirs such as McCoy and then the globalized or Walmart version ᠬa Camus -- to which one could add Sartre, Onetti and quite a few others.

One problem facing both writer and reader of 21st century noir is that a) we know and love the homemade version but can't examine it too closely without realizing that it lacks finesse and is consummable b) we know the Walmart version (extending to Tarantino, ouch), which does not change the ingredients but puts a theory or lid on the whole thing, as well as nostalgia (ouch) -- this can kill our appetite but still we can't forget the name-brand c) Good storytelling is rare and we pick up what we can, even with flaws d) We wish one could write noir without a) or b) as referents, and at the same time satisfy (c) and have some readers. Perhaps it can be done, but how?

Any definition of noir has to go back to the Greek myths. Despair is old, as are the expressions of it. Can one say that McCoy, Cain and Goodis created something new? Something as large as a genre? I don't think so. Has Kafka's influence been acknowledged? Dostoevsky's?

On the other hand, if we broaden the search, noir is just a type of story and hardboiled is a type of character and they are found everywhere...

Anyone want to put of new definitions?

Best, and belated greetings to Jim Sallis, one of my favorite, er, noir and/or hardboiled authors.


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