Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Has anyone changed noir writing (lately)?

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 19 Mar 2007

At 12:24 PM 17/03/2007, you wrote:

>Re your comment below:
>"We don't like po-mo here, though there's no reason a
>story cannot be po-mo and noir at the same time, so
>far as I can tell."

Wow, I guess the first part of that statement has been verified- at least by one:

"So, if I understand you correctly, "po-mo," briefly, is short for "post-modern," and "post-modern" is a lot of left-wing, pseudo-intellectual horse shit."- your summation of Miker's summation of po-mo.

Didn't see anything that responded to the second half of my statement however.

>My curiosity is overcoming my reluctance to display my
>ignorance. What, exactly, is "po-mo?"
>And, as for "pop-culture references," which you
>described as po-mo, how is a reference to, say a
>rock-n-roll song the protagonist grew up with in a
>contemporary hard-boiled/noir story, different from,
>say, the Continental Op's commentary on M.P. Shiel's
>THE LORD OF THE SEA in "The Gutting of Couffignal," or
>Ed McBain's references to movies like THE QUIET MAN or
>TV shows like DRAGNET in the early 87th Precinct

None, that I can tell, in and of themselves. And not much different from allusions to classical literature in the old bugaboo
"literature" for that matter. They're all a shorthand for conveying ideas, or establishing common references for the reader- and as such they are probably examples of the structuralism found wanting by deconstructionists.

But if you'll recall, I was responding to Kevin's difficulty in finding new initiatives in noir and hardboil, and pulling his leg regarding earlier e-mails in which he'd dismissed post modernism and expressed his annoyance at pop-culture references. He'd responded earlier to a query of mine that it wasn't the references themselves that bothered him, but the volume of them that appeared within certain works. In that context I'm inclined to agree with him that a large number of such references may create a hyper-real environment that readers might perceive as post modern. The thing about hyper-reality is that it must be constantly changing or advancing, it seems to me, as readers accept each new wave of hyper-reality as their new reality, and so require constant reinforcement.

I think there are elements of deconstructionism in earlier noir and hardboil too. In a sense the detective in any mystery deconstructs the stories, lies, alibis and relative truths she/he is told in order to solve the crime. In the original version of the story, a murder is a mystery, and an anomaly. It wouldn't have happened if the people involved are to be believed. No wonder someone wants to take those stories apart. Of course the detective also builds a different, often unexpected structure to explain why the crime was committed and, unlike the post-modern explanation, that structure too is usually based an alternative, rational argument, though even then they tend to deal with the corrupting influence of power more than the idea of certain types of misbehaviour belonging to certain types of people. It's more than a case of "rounding up the usual suspects," in other words.

So I'd agree with you, if I'm correct in thinking you're suggesting that post-modernism might have evolved from ideas considered in much earlier noir and hardboil (and other genres), rather than having been dropped out of the ozone in the 1960's by an evil group of anti-American literary critics to confuse and mislead innocent readers.

Best, Kerry

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