Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Name Your Poison

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 31 Aug 2006

At 08:14 PM 30/08/2006 -0400, you wrote:

>You may be right about our running into semantic differences. In fact,
>that's why I steered away from the use of the word "moral," since even
>though I know Kerry was using it in the more general, "norms and mores"
>sense of the word, I have trouble separating it from ideas of religion,
>which is not what we're talking about.

I know what you mean, but my point would be that they can't be separated. A culture's ideas of what's normal behaviour is linked to it's idea of what is moral behaviour. What we now term as "crazy" for instance, might have been termed "possessed" just a couple of centuries ago, denoting a direct moral valuation. Cultures evolve. In this case, crazy and possessed both denote abnormal behaviour, but other cultures found different ways to deal with this stuff, which in turn suggests a different concept of moral bahaviour. In jazz culture, "crazy" became good- something different from the norm, a new direction for the music, is a positive. In other circles, usually a politicized underground culture, crazy may be deemed the only rational response in a world gone mad. All these perceptions suggest a valuation which would come from a moral outlook, and vice versa. Moral as in involving a decision about what is good or bad, not moral as in making the right decision.

To go back to the beginning of this line, these are different "truths" to which readers would compare the fictions they read or heard when making decisions about the story's reality or relevancy. Different strokes.

Miker said:
"I'd say that what is implicit about good and evil in noir is not one against the other (although I don't rule it out), but good intertwined with evil."

Yeah. The way I like to put it is that good does not transcend evil, at least not in noir. This is a change of direction in cultural assumptions and western literature, I think, which is why I always felt discussion about what is or isn't implicit in noir fiction to be worthy of consideration. Yes it should be entertaining, but there IS a subtext too.

What does it mean that good does not transcend evil? What are the implications for a society that organizes itself this way? Why do we even look at things from the point of view of good or evil?

To me, that's where the issue of reality lies in this genre, and not necessarily because characters are street tough or use words like "dese",
"dem" or "dose." Or whatever.

I think that's what Stansberry meant when he said the genre had stalled, to some extent, in a kind of nostalgic reverence (my words), which calls out for a new direction, citing the existentialist European noir as an example of one such direction. The world is full of competing realities, competing views of life, and communications technologies being what they are, we see new, and generally surprising evidence of this almost weekly. Most recent might be the evidence of home-grown, Islamic terrorists, or at least people deemed to be this. Or it might be something like somebody using society's almost reflexive response to child abduction to earn attention and first-class airfare home from Thailand. Well, what writers will write about is what interests them. I'm just noting some of the fictions I'd like to collaborate with by reading. Then again, when I read this stuff in the news, I sometimes feel that I already am.

Where's my point? Oh yeah: Noir fiction is a strong framework, point-of-view, or set of moral assumptions, well suited to examining this, or these phenomena. Much as I like Kevin, and I do, I don't want to restrict noir to his, or any overly familiar assumptions about reality.

Something like that, Kerry

------------------------------------------------------ Literary events Calendar (South Ont.) The evil men do lives after them

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