Re: RARA-AVIS: Re:can noir writers advocate social reform?

From: Patrick King (
Date: 25 Nov 2006

I don't really agree with you here, Jim. Noir concerns the nature of the hero. Sam Spade and Philip Marlow are hard boiled characters. They may not be 100% in line with the police. They may be rebels in the face of authority. But they are always on the side of
"good." They may be indiscreet, but they will never fail to out a killer even if they love her. Noir characters, on the other hand, are morally of a different stripe. The characters in Jim Thompson and James M. Cain's work are perfectly disposed to do evil if they encounter the right woman or the wrong opportunity. Amorality, not atmosphere, is the heart and nature of noir. Amorality is a socio/political problem. Noir always poses a question of the right direction to take, and the fruits of the easy decision.

Patrick King

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:

> Jay,
> Re your question below:
> "I assume that novelists who can
> be called noir, like Cain, McCoy, Algren, Dahlberg,
> Fante, or Benjamin Appel are not social reformers or
> proletarian novelists inciting to social change, and
> that social reformers like James T Farrell, John Dos
> Passos or Michael Gold, however much they deal with
> evil, the criminal underclass, and political
> corruption, cannot be considered noir or hardboiled.
> Does this distinction make sense?"
> No, it doesn't.
> Hard-boiled is about attitude and style, not
> politics.
> Noir is about tone and atmosphere, not politics.
> If it's tough and colloquial, it's hard-boiled.
> If it's dark and sinister, it's noir.
> If it's tough and colloquial, AND dark and sinister,
> it's hard-boiled AND noir.
> If it's any of those things, and the writer has a
> political ax to grind, either right-wing or
> left-wing,
> then it's hard-boiled, or noir, or hard-boiled AND
> noir, with either a right-wing ax to grind, or a
> left-wing ax to grind.
> In other words, that the writer may be considered a
> social reformer, or may consider himself a social
> reformer, doesn't enter into the equation.
> Do you Yahoo!?
> Everyone is raving about the all-new Yahoo! Mail
> beta.

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