Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler's "Noir Feel" for LA (was Denise Hamilton)

From: Al Guthrie (
Date: 14 May 2004

----- Original Message ----- From: "Grimes" <>
> As I've learned from Rara-Avis, "noir" gets to atmosphere (dark and
> sinister, as Jim D. puts it) and "hard-boiled" gets to character (the
> outsider who adheres to his code, maintains his dignity and even wins a
> even as he takes his lumps).

Don't get hung up on Jim's definition, Steve. Some of us have our own definitions. In my case, I don't see how you can separate noir from character. Applied to atmosphere only, Jim's definition describes Gothic, not noir. In noir, the sinister element comes from the character's perception of the world (a worldview which is often twisted and paranoid --
'noirotic', if you will). And Jim's definition doesn't take into account the mortality of the protagonist, which is hugely important in (and possibly even fundamental to) noir (as Russell James once pointed out). I see the difference between hardboiled and noir in the reaction to events. For example, when a hardboiled character is shot it makes him angry and acts as a spur to further acts of toughness; when a noir character's shot he spends the rest of the book dying (if he's shot in the foot, he'll prod and poke and eventually the wound will become infected). To respond to your original post, Steve, I'd agree that Chandler's hardboiled, but I see Marlowe operating in a hardboiled (not noir) world.


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