Re: RARA-AVIS: Daniel Woodrell on "Noir"

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 31 Jan 2009

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Daniel Woodrell on "Noir""

    On Sat, Jan 31, 2009 at 9:59 AM, jacquesdebierue
    > >It would be remarkable if a noted author like Woodrell did not have
    > >strong opinions on the genre he plows. And you shouldn't hold Iowa
    > >against him...


    Let me break down what most irked me about this quote:

    "I just brought noir back to town, man."

    That's riiiiiiiiiiiiight Woodrell did it, and probably all. by. him. self.

    "Not to start a fracas..."

    This is the statement of someone *looking* to start a fracas.

    "but hardly anything in books or films that others call noir would pass muster as noir by my indices----a saxophone, a blonde and an unfiltered cigarette do not make a thing noir."

    I'm trying to think of the last piece of alleged noir fiction that featured a saxophone. Well, Bruen's always talking about music, and he mentions Van Morrison all the time in his Taylor books, and ol' Van loooooved the saxophone (usually as part of a horn section), and hey, I think Taylor's last failed relationship was with a blonde girl, and lord knows he smokes like a chimney...

    DAMN! Woodrell's saying that Ken Bruen doesn't write noir! I must
    *immediately* stop reading his excellent work now if I want to remain a member in good standing of "Noir Purist Club."

    (tongue removed from cheek)

    And now comes the part where we run in to the whole "Iowa Writers Workshop" thing...

    "Pure noir is a direct bastard child of Greek Tragedy,"

    Really? Greek Tragedy? Is it "impure noir" if it takes more from Roman tragedians such as Seneca or perhaps the Renaissance tragedians such as Kyd, Marlowe, or Willie the Shake? Or (as long as we're torturing metaphors past the howling point) how about if it's the direct bastard child of, say, the Old Norse Sagas, you know, man's fate is written before his life begins and there is no escaping it, blah blah blah? Is that "impure noir"?

    Wow! Grad school comes in handy when troweling out overwrought metaphors such as those cited above!

    "Pure noir." "Bastard child."


    But wait! There's more Iowa Writers residue below!

    "a bastard child that was raised by the bunch that would have it, that being gutterbound underbelly proseteers and their disciples. Such novels are among the few places to encounter the POV of the underclass expressed as if to other underclass folk-that is to say as truthfully as can be."

    Yeah, that's it. "Noir" is all about the class struggle, baby. Existentialism and its antecedents are sooo last century, baby!

    (Sorry, couldn't resist. It just seems that so many "literary writers" seem to assume that the rest of us have never read a book without pictures, and then the name dropping begins. Ugh.)

    Feel free to disagree, since this is all more for fun than anything else.

    All the Best-


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