Re: RARA-AVIS: Re:Most Hard-Boiled?

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 20 Dec 2006

At 12:42 AM 20/12/2006 +0000, Jim wrote:
> 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.

Sorry Jim. He said optimists will NOT find what they're looking for in noir.

>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.

Yes, I believe you've just said what I said about what he said. Cool.

>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.

Actually, I don't think I've every heard or read you saying that, but if so, I'm happily wrong, because here you're saying that the dark and sinister quality is more than atmospherics, which are invoked in many other forms of literature, possibly embodied in them all in the form of the antagonist. The phrase "dark and sinister" is by itself inadequate, being too general.

And I think the difference is more than degree- as you say: inherent as opposed to anomalous. What makes a dark and sinister atmosphere inherent in noir? Others have suggested it is that the characters, chiefly the protagonist is doomed, or screwed, but I agree with you that this is too narrow. Often the protagonist appears to triumph, solving his case or whatever. But in noir the case may be solved, but at a price for the protagonist, or the story is resolved in such a way as to illustrate the ultimate limitations of human existence. Good may be served for the moment, but evil remains to take it's pound of flesh perhaps in other ways, or at other times. This is why I've suggested that noir can be defined as non-transcendent, as opposed to other forms of literature.

I don't think anyone on the list is saying that noir and hardboil are mutually exclusive, or have I missed something?

Best, Kerry

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