Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Digest Number 1548

From: William Ahearn (
Date: 07 Jul 2007

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:

> On the other hand, if you mean that the PROTAGONIST
> must be screwed, then, conversely, your definition
> is
> much too narrow. Many books published under the
> NOIRE imprint, many films listed in Silver & Ward's
> FILM NOIR, many authors profiled in THE BIG BOOK OF
> NOIR, fall outside of those tight parameters.

I agree with Jack. First off, please use examples of falling outside those parameters. Second, my definition is even narrower than Jack's. Series Noir
(or Roman Noir, whatever) and cinema noir exist in a very tight time frame. As a pre-war sensibility or Depression-era style and as an immediate post war style. It was all over by 1955 at the latest. Many of you consider David Goodis noir. I don't. Really like his writing and he's a fun read but he ain't the thing we mean. Touch of Evil is not noir. It is junk. When I see some of the examples that pop up on this list, I'm dismayed. I really enjoy this list, don't get me wrong. But I see the attempts at a definition of noir in the way the military sees mission creep. In fact, it had a very short life-span and was incredibly influential but like the art movement Dada, it was what it was and there are no neo-dadists, or post-dadists or whatever-dadists.

The naming convention is the key to the whole mess. It was an almost off-hand remark by a French critic who never announced the beginnings of a movement or school or anything with rules or regulations or secretaries reading the minutes of the previous meeting. Talk about vague (and yes the pun is intended). So I really don't care about somebody's big book of this or that or conversations about how noir is alive today. It isn't. What is being touted as the new noir is more a fashion than a style. That's not to say that some of these books aren't good or not worth reading. But having definitions of post-1955 noirishness is sometimes funny and every time has helped me with my own evaluations of the form.

But the waving of books and quotations is a little too Mao for me.


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