Re: RARA-AVIS: Question for Mr. Sallis

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 23 Feb 2004

> You forgot to mention the unquestioned legacies of both
> Twain and Hemingway in the home-grown school.>>
> I don't see a relation between Twain and Hemingway and the
> noir type of story, though The Sun Also Rises is a
> marvellous loser's story. I associate Twain, Hemingway and
> Hammett with the tough and colloquial style that we call
> hardboiled. As I write this, I feel uneasy because Twain
> wrote (tried to write) the way people spoke, whereas
> Hemingway's language sounds artificial. Well, maybe
> big-game hunters talk like that to each other...

There are a number of Hemingway stories that deal expressly with the issues of abandonment, loss, dispair in the face of an all-consuming fate, regardless of whether or not they are "noir." These stories certainly strike me as being highly influential, especially on noir and hard-boiled writers.

A few examples:

"The Killers"- This is noir writing through and through.

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" - Fatalism through a glass darkly.

"The Short, Happy Life of Francis MacComber" - This has a "lady or the tiger" type of ending, and one I consider to be a very realistic noirish turn on the big game hunting Mr. T. references.

"The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio" - The guy gets shot in the first paragraph and is dying in a rural hospital.

"Hills Like White Elephants" - He wants her to get it, she doesn't want to get it. She's smarter and more "aware" than he is. We also know she's going to get it because she loves him, and so does he. Talk about "fucked from page one, and things going downhill from there."

"Solider's Home" - If this isn't a noir hero stripped of his most basic humanity, then what is?

"A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" - "Our nada who art in nada, hallowed be thy nada. Thy kingdom nada, thy will be nada, in nada as it is in nada..."

And that's just a few of the short stories. If there's a happy moment in
"The Sun Also Rises" that isn't related directly to the fleeting pleasures of alcohol and/or sex, I haven't seen it. And talk about fatally damaged and equally screwed (no pun intended) hero...

All the Best-


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