RARA-AVIS: Sinister Noir

From: Al Guthrie ( allanguthrie@ukonline.co.uk)
Date: 17 May 2004

----- Original Message ----- From: "JIM DOHERTY" < jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com>
> Most of the complaints about my definition are that
> it's TOO inclusive. Which novels do you think I'm
> excluding?
> Which "sinister" novels do you think I ignored?
Same question, Jim. And Mario already provided some good examples:

<<Many of Goodis's stories are not dark and sinister; rather, they merely relate hopeless situations involving losers. Likewise, Charles Williams's _The Hot Spot_ (one of the greatest noir novels) is neither dark nor sinister. It is a tale of compulsion and human weakness that leads to violence and ruin. LIkewise, Willeford's _The Woman Chaser_ is neither dark nor sinister. It is a tale of a barely half-grown man's hysteria and its consequences.>>

Also, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" jumps to mind. How about "Pick-Up"? Whittington's brilliant "The Devil Wears Wings"? Much of Charles Williams's work? Bottom line, 'sinister' is a term I'd associate more with Gothic or the modern psychological thriller than noir. You said you'd looked for common traits, Jim. And you came up with 'dark' and 'sinister'. Well, that's fine, and representative of what you've read. Why not ask around and see what everybody else thinks? That way we'll get a more comprehensive picture. You see, "Babe, Pig In The City" is incredibly dark and sinister with crimes aplenty, but it all turns out fine in the end, so it ain't noir (in my opinion).

So, in the spirit of research... If I had only one word to describe noir, I'd opt for bleak. A definition of noir that doesn't include 'bleak' is always going to leave me unsatisfied, since it's surely one of its most common characteristics. I don't think too many people find noir terribly uplifting. I've certainly never read a feel-good noir.


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