Re: RARA-AVIS: Back into the definitional whirlpool

Date: 14 May 2004


Re your comments below:

> One thing I like about you Jim is the absolute
> certainty you have in your opinions. But I have a
> question about the above post.

It's easy to be absolutely certain when you're absolutely right.
> You state that a)Mr. Duhamel coined the term and
> therefore he has "the right to set the parameters"
> and the right to decide which writers are included.
> Given that, his opinion, in other words, is beyond
> challenge.

Whoever coined the word gets to use it to describe what s/he wants described. Whoever uses it to describe something else is misusing the term. That, I think, is pretty much unassailable.

Duhamel use of the term "noir" as an adjective to describe a certain kind of crime fiction was clearly not as restrictive as some would like it to be. Using it in a more restrictive sense is misusing it.
> Okay, but then we have b)Doherty's ironclad
> certainty that noir is defined by a dark and
> sinister atmosphere.
> I need to check the Siere Noir list again but
> certainly it includes novels that do not have a dark
> and senister atmosphere. If some of those were
> chosen by Mr. Duhamel, are they noir by Duhamel
> fiat? Or, are they ruled out because they do not
> have the only characteristics you deem as defining?

I haven't seen a list of every single book ever published under the Serie Noir imprint. And if I did, It's unlikely that I would have read them all.

The common element I discern from the disparate Serie Noir books with which I am familiar, and from the films made from those books or in the tradition of those books, and really the ONLY common element I discern, is, to one degree or another, a dark and sinister atmosphere.

I can't speak to the books I'm not familiar with, but I CAN say that's all the books I AM familiar with have in common aside from being mysteries.

If there are Serie Noir books that don't even have THAT element, than "noir" is reduced to nothing more than a synonym for "mystery" or "crime fiction," but, in the ones I AM familiar with, that single common element is so evident that it's rather easy to infer that it's an editorial decision to choose books that have that common element. And that's what I infer.
> And, by the way, it was good to meet you at Malice
> Domestic and I am enjoying your book.

Likewise and thanks.


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