Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Humor and irony in noir

From: E.Borgers (
Date: 23 Oct 2004

Kerry J. Schooley :

>>Chandler was a hardboiled writer, not a noir writer. Put some of
>>those funny lines into a typical David Goodis downer and see
>>where it gets you...
>I know it is the consensus of this list that Chandler is not noir, but it
>is not one I agree with, even if Chandler himself defined the genre in
>romantic terms. I don't say this to re-open debate. Points that have been
>made to limit Chandler to hardboil are valid, but I'd like to suggest that
>as a world view (Eddie Muller listed this as one definition of noir at that
>increasingly infamous Bouchercon panel) it is valid for the reader to bring
>a noir point of view into a work that the author may not have intended.
No, no, do not go too quickly to generalization: I 'm personally convinced that Chandler is noir and did noir in part of his writing, but he did not know it.... His noir is of course heavily loaded with hard-boiled attitude. Do not forget that even "hard-boiled" to define a mystery genre had to emerge slowly from the 40s and Chandler, and others, were speaking of
"thrillers" for their works. Noir as a vocable to qualify American mystery lit *in America* came much much later, so Chandler did not think in these terms when writing about his lit (and others'). I am even convinced that noir is a larger territory, including the hard-boiled works and authors. But, hey, on this list it's something that will quickly lead me to be dumped in the R-A bonfire for heretics
(stoked with burning books I guess).
[some irony in my last sentence, of course... just to rally the discussion about humor- ]

Humor Even if the discussion is interesting, it seems to me that we are drifting to hair splitting. There are so many different form of written humor that you will find it in all kind of litteratures. As already underlined by others, irony is a kind of subtle vicious form of humor that you will find in lots of noir works. And I will add that cold irony can be very close to cynicism. Also that certain form of cynicism can be very close to noir humor, or really part of it. Everything depends on intention and quantity. A lot of any of humor forms... you will have a book intended first to be funny. But discrete forms of humor here and there in works absolutely not intended to be funny books is something existing and does not corrupt the genre in which you find it. Humor does not necessary mean making funny faces or slipping on a banana peel... Or is it? All these things were evidences to me, but reading some messages of the thread... I wonder. Do you consider "Cosmic Banditos" as a textbook on quantum theory? Do you consider "Pop. 1280" as a farce?

E.Borgers Hard-Boiled Mysteries

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