Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Neo-nah...

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 06 Jul 2007

So we agree on much, with clarification, which points to the value of Mark's request for specifics. But to carry on regardless:

At 05:36 PM 05/07/2007, Kevin wrote:

>It's one thing to comment on the collapse of institutionalized
>morality. It's quite another to pander to it, while simultaneously
>claiming some sort of moral or intellectual high road.

Maybe- but I'm not sure that much of the, say, music of the 60s of the punk era didn't get similar criticism from serious music lovers as they emerged, nor that much of that criticism was entirely unjustified. You're going to have to face this Kevin, as I have, that we are no longer of the age that makes pop culture run. We've a different set of values than the current young writers, with values that differ even from our own when we were moved by pop culture. But that's a (relevant I think) side issue.

>If these guys actually have something to say about violence or evil,
>maybe they should tether their writing to something a little closer
>to real life than Saturday morning cartoons.

But the issue these days is, what is real? That's actually what you're arguing for here, is a reality that YOU can relate to. You're assuming there's a universal reality, but that is long gone and largely what the new young writers are on about (some doing it well, others not.)

Best example of this was the submission by hardcasecrime that followed this response to my response to which I am now responding. In that one (the hardcasecrime response to Mark's request) Charles spoke about the reality, or authenticity of his current Hard Case Crime publishing venture relative to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and other movies, and the real thing of the late 40's early 50's that exists now in our imaginations and crack-covered souvenirs. But the current reality is that all of these things exist now, in one form or another, thanks to the miracle of modern communications technology and none is more real than the other, except as subjective preferences and memory. The reality is a postmodern experience that denies objective reality, to which you object as being entirely too self aware.

>And if they intend to shock, they better learn to pace themselves. If
>they start with dismemberment and disembowelment in Chapter One, it
>doesn't matter how far they take it -- after a while, it's simply
>tiresome and predictable, no matter how many more body parts they lop

Okay, some good, some bad, we've agreed on that.

> > What man can imagine gets done. Crucifixion is hardly new. It was,
> > not that long ago in human history, a form of institutionalized
> > violence, practiced with decorum and piety. Maybe we should be
> > shocked by it.
>I'd like to think we should. I sure don't think I want to be someone
>who's entertained by it.

Maybe not, but that doesn't mean you're not, at times. Strange thing is that every so often human options boil down to that old, instinctual, brain-stem, fight or flight response that has entertained humanity for thousands of years.

>Who's saying mindless violence doesn't exist? Certainly not me. And
>certainly not anyone who's ever read the newspapers or seen the news.
>But that's real life, which is already essentially mindless and
>senseless. Narrative fiction should try to make at least some sort of
>sense. Otherwise it's just a random series of unconnected events.

Sure, but that's the defining characteristic of fiction. The notion of the world making sense is, itself, a fiction.

>No, what I'm really disturbed by is not depictions of mindless
>violence but MINDLESS deptctions of mindless violence. Scenes not
>injected into a plot to serve the story, but INSTEAD of a story.

Okay, but without story, a strong narrative, the piece of work is not noir to begin with. At the risk of repeating myself, noir is more than a sinister atmosphere, a sense of doom evoked by, say, rain-slicked streets and high-contrast lighting. It is also about more than one or more doomed characters as you might encounter in a mindless depiction of mindless violence lacking in plot. Noir requires a narrative that is more than tragic, it is non-transcendent. The characters, whether they want to or not (and they so frequently want to) cannot escape the reality of their lives and the human condition.

However, the fact that the label is applied to the works of so many creators who don't really understand noir is, for better or worse, a sign of the current popularity of this genre, and I think to some extent the success of this list which is always arguing for the genre's purity. And that's part of our current reality too.

Best, Kerry

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