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

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 14 May 2004

Jim wrote:

"You separate character from noir by looking at the stories that were originally classified as noir, and the movies that were originally classified as noir, seeing what they had in common, and concluding that those common elements must be the defining elements."

However, in an earlier discussion you drew a very strict distinction between noir movies and books, saying that, by definition, no film released past a certain year can be noir, that, by definition, no contemporary film can be labeled noir. However, your use of noir when referring to books embraces books of any era. That tells me you do not see noir ooks and films as entirely comparable.

You also consistently confine darkness to atmospherics and rule it out as indicative of characters or actions (you've said no movie set in sunlight can be noir; does that apply to books, too? I guess much of Thompson is not noir), hence you always refer to a "noir world," never
"noir stories." And that is my main problem with your definition. Yes, Marlowe may walk down mean streets in a noir world, but I don't think of Chandler's books as noir. I am far more interested in finding the distinction between Chandler's work and, say, that of Goodis. They are not writing the same kind of stories. I don't think they are even writing about the same world. And any label that equates the two is of limited value -- yes, the Stooges and the Monkess both played rock (and I really like them both), but any term vague enough to accurately include them both is not much help in classification.


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