RARA-AVIS: Noir Manifesto

From: Tim Wohlforth ( tim@timwohlforth.com)
Date: 29 Oct 2005

It seems to me the heart of Stansberry's excellent essay is the following: "Because that which has been strangling the genre is the mentality that rationalism and logical must prevail. That order must be restored. That good must triumph."

It is hard to argue with the notion that most current writing that's considered "noir" involves at least some concession to the "happy ending." I would hold up Connelly's excellent Bosch series as an example. The genre would be helped by more breaks with this formula. An example of this would be Lehane's "Mystic River." One could say "logic" triumphs in that the murderers are exposed. Yet everyone else is pretty much fucked. And the villains are sad cases as well. I would question whether the problem is a refusal to enter the "dark side" of the irrational (or woo woo). To me it is a desire to protect the reader from the existential "truth" that life itself may be meaningless. Poe was Poe, the father of the horror story as well as the mystery. It does not follow that mysteries that are not woo woos are ergo not noir. Or even that Poe is the father of noir, a mid 20th century phenomenon.

However, I do feel Stansberry is right in suggesting current "noir" has been sugar coated a bit. We writers need to strip away the coating, write tougher, harder, uglier stuff. That is, be truthful.

For some reason I feel this is a particularly American task. Not to knock the French. I am not sure why this is the case. Maybe because our nation does so many dark things, and everyday reality here can be so distant from that created by TV, or that no other country on earth has the great disparities of wealth that we have.

Tim Wohlforth

P.S. That's why I liked the recently demised Plots With Guns and the new Thuglit site. Tough uncensured writing, younger writers, male and female, with balls.

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