RARA-AVIS: Re:Most Hard-Boiled?

From: jimdohertyjr ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 19 Dec 2006


Re your comments below:

> It's not just that the terms "dark and sinister" don't appear in
> description. It's that he confirms the definition of "doomed"
suggested by
> Jack Bludis.

He doesn't confirm it. He states that you will find plots with that kind of subject matter in his line, but he doesn't say that it's ALL that you will find. And, as I noted in an earlier post, Duhamel's earliest choices (and I would suggest that it's the books he decides to publish that provide the best indicator of what he meant by "noir) for the line were disproportionately American, or American-style, hard-boiled mysteries with heroes who emerged triumphant in the end, avoiding the "doom" that Jack insists is the defining element.
> "Those who like Sherlock Holmes-type puzzles won't find what
> looking for. Neither will systematic optimists."
> Sounds to me like Duhamel is saying fairly clearly that noir is the
> of pessimists, or doom-sayers.
   First of all, it doesn't follow that anyone who's not an optimist is a pessimist or a doomsayer. S/he might simply be a realist, a pragmatist, or (if he's a character in a Woolrich story) a fatalist.

Certainly stories with a pessimistic view would fit according to what he says (and, also, according to what I've always said), but it doesn't follow that stories with something other than a pessimistic view would not. In fact, this seems to support my contention. The world of noir is not sunny and optimistic. It's dark and sinister. But it's also a place where a determined individual can win out, or where Fate can take a hand.

Interestingly, on re-reading the bit about Holmes, he doesn't seem to be rejecting the character so much as the style of puzzle plot associated with him, and to disciples of Conan Doyle like Christie, Queen, and Carr. There may be puzzles in noir(as there are in Hammett, for example), but there's more to a noir story than simply solving that puzzle.
> "The immorality generally accepted in this type of work solely to
serve as
> a foil for conventional morality is just as much at home there as
> feelings, even just plain amorality."
> I think Duhamel is saying here that the immorality (the dark and
> quality) that shows up in other works solely as a contrast for
> morality, finds a place in noir on a par with conventional morality
> amorality.

NO he's saying that what you've described the dark, sinister quality is an inherent part of the landscape in noir, "at home" in noir as Duhamel puts it, whereas, in traditional mysteries, it exists only to provide a contrast with conventional morality.
> This would suggest that "dark and sinister" cannot be a defining
> characteristic of noir, as such atmospherics are used elsewhere.
> difference is in how the immorality or dark and sinister atmosphere
> employed. There is much that is dark and sinister in Sherlock
> stories, even in the character himself, but the stories confirm
> conventional morality, whereas noir spares no room for optimists.

No, it suggests that the dark and sinister quality is an inherent part of noir, not an anomalous element as it is in traditional mysteries. Which is what I've always said.


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