Re: RARA-AVIS: Philosophize This

From: Tribe (
Date: 01 Sep 2005

On 9/1/05, Kevin Burton Smith wrote:
> Just thinking out loud here, but...
> The former is a way of thinking, an attitude; the latter more a
> condition or atmosphere. Even in literature, hard-boiled generally
> refers to the attitudes of the narrator or author; the other more to
> the prevailing mood or tone.
> But assuming one would want to "be" noir, what would a noir philosophy
> consist of? We're all fucked and we're all gonna die so the hell with
> everything? In practice, it would seem like pretentious, glib, and
> morally hollow cynicism, a quick cutting remark for everything and an
> answer for nothing.

I'll take a stab at this, Kevin, realizing of course that wht is noir and what is hard-boiled has been debated many times on this mailing list.

>From what little I know, noir, as it applies to literature, is a
relatively recent conceit (more recent even than the norion of noir as it applies to film). I always thought that the impetus for noir lit came about as a result of the resurgence in popularity of the lurid paperbacks from the fifties, and then applied basically to those novels that has that subjective quality of sordidness that went the nth degree beyond what Chandler and Hammett. Later, the term noir was used to encompass the work of earlier writers like Horace McCoy and James M. Cain.

I think noir and hard-boiled share those issues of attitude and atmosphere, they aren't specific to one camp or the other, particularly since the notion of noir in lit certainly springs out of the hard-boiled school.

Having said all that, there is a fine line between noir and nihilism.
"We're all fucked and we're all gonna die so the hell with everything" isn't necessarily a noir theme, and very few successful noir novels go that route (Jim Thompson, of course, being an example). But the fact of the matter is that bad people who do bad things end up with bad results. The recounting of a noir tale doesn't necessarily equate to an all-encompassing noir world view.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.


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