RARA-AVIS: Goodis, Hardy, and "Noir"

From: Mark D. Nevins (nevins_mark@yahoo.com)
Date: 27 Oct 2008

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    Jeff, thanks very much for the thoughtful post on Goodis.

    I am a "newbie" still to the RARA-AVIS canon, and have not yet started on Goodis. I plan to do so soon.

    Nevertheless, re: the following:
    "All of the Goodis hallmarks are there. The bitch/evil woman/women vs. the angel in need of saving, the suicidal thoughts, the unbelievable coincidences and the backdrop of Philadelphia. Although, in this, his last novel he seems to address the issue of implausible coincidences, by delving into the Freudian belief that there are no real coincidences. The machinations of our subconscious lead us to a point that only to our conscious mind seem coincidental. Mind you, I'm not saying he does this convincingly, but at least well enough to hold your interest and momentarily believe the implausible."

    Not yet having read any Goodis, the description above reminds me of no writer so much as Thomas Hardy, with JUDE THE OBSCURE being perhaps the best example: ultimately tragic wavering between the "dark woman" and the "light woman"; crushing coincidences and the cruelty of fate; an incredible sense of the history of place and its destiny (nobody is better than Hardy in this area); suicidal thoughts; and even some of the ambivalences created in the reader that you describe.

    Having re-read the masterful THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE this summer, it occurs to me that if we're tracing the literary origins of "noir" (as I have seen it defined here) we absolutely cannot forget about Hardy (to the point where, reading Jeff's comments above, I wonder if Goodis was directly influenced by Hardy). Many "noir" themes appear earlier in literature (e.g., Shakespearean and Classical Greek tragedy), but Hardy seems to be the one who truly transports them to the modern world and the novel.

    OK, so, back on topic: If I'm going to start reading Goodis, is there any advised reading order and/or a good book to begin with?

    Best, Mark Nevins

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