Re: RARA-AVIS: Cain and Hammett

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 02 Oct 2007

Sorry William. We can both admire and appreciate The Maltese Falcon, but you just don't get it.

Though he inspired Marlowe, Spade is a different character entirely. Marlowe is the romantic, lone knight. He rescues the damsels from their dragons, even if he doesn't marry them and live happily ever after. Well, he's a bit sexually confused, like his creator and many romantic heroes.

But Spade is not confused. He saves no one from anything, except himself from playing the sap. He neither stops nor corrects anyone's behaviour. He doesn't care about them. At best he avenges his partner's death, but only because to do otherwise would be bad for business. Spade logically repudiates all notions of romantic transcendence. Get used to it, he says, this is the real world, and this is what it takes to survive in it.

You get nowhere just lumping all the tough-guys together. Marlowe is the tough-talking but romantic searcher. Spade is condemned to live, briefly as the rest of us, in a world without love. If you don't think that's screwed, if you think I'm the one doing the fudging, then be careful not to bend over in a public washroom.

And please refrain from suggesting that I said Spade is not a hero. What I said was that he could only be a hero in a different kind of literature. That would be noir literature. With all due respect, I am tired of reading posts that try to paint over noir with a romantic varnish. That would be semantic dancing. If you imagine Spade is a romantic hero like Marlowe, then you've at least got to address that list of reasons he has for handing Brigid over to the cops. Tell me what's romantic about any one of those, please.

Otherwise, I agree with all you've said, Kerry

>I got to go with Jack on this one. Describing Spade as
>"screwed" -- with all due respect -- is semantic
>dancing. For example, he's not dead, in prison, or
>insane. Now that's screwed and I can't speak for Jack
>but I sense that's what he means. Spade is a hero as
>is Philip Marlowe and you can fudge it all you want
>but he succeeds and lives and all the bad puppies have
>been slapped with the newspaper. Don't get me wrong.
>The Maltese Falcon may be the best book of its kind
>and is a damn fine book of any kind.
>But Spade is a hero no matter what environment he
>swims in. All the PIs are. This is elementary, my dear
>Watson. There's no getting around it. That is how they
>function. That they may be morally or ethically
>flexible only means that they aren't saints. They may
>not be role models but they sure are heros in the way
>we understand that term. Frank and Cora from "Postman"
>are not heros. It's this simple: One is dead and the
>other is off to prison.
>That's screwed.

------------------------------------------------------ The evil men do lives after them

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