Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir with no crime?

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 11 Jan 2007

At 01:48 PM 08/01/2007 +0000, you wrote:

>No matter, this sport is not a _crime_ in the sense in which we talk about
>"crime fiction".

For me it is. I like to read stories that question these parameters, and even delve into that area of what a crime is. For some it is absolute, some behaviour has been declared illegal and therefore the people who participate in that behaviour are immoral and disreputable. But then we have behaviours that were legal, made illegal, and made legal again. In cockfighting we have behaviours that are illegal if done in one place, but legal if done in another. I think it's this ambivalence that makes the activity of smoking still show up, perhaps disproportionately, in crime and noir fiction.

Often this leads me to suspect that some bahaviours are labelled criminal because it serves the purposes of a group who have gained the political power to make such declarations as much or more than it serves to protect innocents from victimization.

I'm not always convinced that criminalizing certain behaviours actually changes the incidence of those behaviours, so much as it allows us the satisfaction of punishing our lessers. This might be one of the vicarious thrills that come from reading crime fiction.

>Think of what would happen if suddenly boxing was outlawed... would you
>say that a story
>involving boxing was criminous?

Yeah, and there has been some great noir set in that environment. More for the activities that went on around the sport itself, I admit, but they were criminal.

> I think that _the_ archetypal crime in crime fiction is murder.
>This includes the threat or the suspicion of murder.

It's pretty definitive for the victim, I agree. It's also the biggest crime, as we've defined it in Western cultures. It gets the biggest penalties, for instance. So I enjoy most reading about people who kill without consequence. I'd have to be elected to office to enjoy such opportunities directly.

>A noir novel without any crime whatever is Patricia Highsmith's _Edith's
>Diary_, one of the
>bleakest cold showers I have ever read. It's really nasty as well as scary.

We did at one time on this list define noir as a category of crime fiction. In so doing, did we just dodge the question?

Best, Kerry

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