RARA-AVIS: Back into the definitional whirlpool

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 14 May 2004

In a message dated 5/14/2004 1:39:41 PM Eastern Daylight Time, owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca writes:

> The guy who classified prose fiction as noir, and who
> coined the term to describe a particular type of crime
> fiction, was Gallimard's mystery editor Marcel
> Duhamel. He started Gallimard's crime fiction
> imprint, Serie Noir. Three of Serie Noir's earlist
> offerings were Marlowe novels by Chandler. So, in the
> view of the man who coined the term "noir" to describe
> a particular kind of crime fiction, Chandler was a
> practitioner of that kind of crime fiction.
> Since Duhamel coined the term, Duhamel gets to set the
> parameters. And he decided Chandler, and Hammett, and
> Burnett, and a host of other American hard-boiled
> writers, were within those parameters.
> That leaves it to us to discern the common elements.
> The common elements were atmospheric qualities that
> were dark and sinister. Consequently, those must be
> the defining elements, both in prose and in film.

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.

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.

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?

And, by the way, it was good to meet you at Malice Domestic and I am enjoying your book.

Richard Moore

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