Re: RARA-AVIS: Unreliable narrator

From: Michael Robison (
Date: 11 Nov 2005

Mark quoted Vicki:

If someone can really develop interesting character and psychological depth, I wouldn't reject a book just because it had an unexpected ending, but this doesn't happen very often. What I want is something unpredictable, but seems to be the only possible ending for the character when you think it over.

*********** One of noir's greatest features is the predictable ending that is also a surprise. It's accomplished with irony. You know the protagonist is doomed and by God he is, but you never imagined him going down the way he does. You know where Frank is headed in Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, but the fact that he ends up there for a crime he didn't commit is wonderful. The protag in Gresham's classic Nightmare Alley is doomed from the beginning by Freud and greed, but how he ends up is one of the best pieces of irony I've ever read. Willeford swaps femme fatales on the reader in Wild Wives, an irony of style on top of irony.

Whether by choice or lack of ability, most modern noir's failure to produce significant irony dooms not only the protagonist, but the novel as well.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 11 Nov 2005 EST