Now this is more like it: a low-down dirty literary dispute of the kind we haven't seen at RARA in a long, long time.
So Dave agrees with Kevin that this "over the top" possibly noir humour as a growing trend. Like most folks, I like it when I'm in on the joke, don't like it so much when I don't get it, but I do see a strong link between noir futility and the absurd even more than I see one between noir and violence as essential. Noir is a sub-genre of crime fiction, but crime does not always involve overt violence, as attractive as that may be to readers.
At the same time, just like Kevin, I've sometimes had the sense when reading a new "noir" that the author doesn't know what characterizes noir (and why should she--we've yet to agree on a single definition here at RARA and groan audibly when the subject is brought up,) often reverting to "parody" when it turns out to be more subtle and challenging to write well than perhaps originally imagined. Usually that happens when they imagine noir is just about violence and darkness, but nobody wants to go there, so I will say that this in no way is to suggest that I don't like Al Guthrie's work. I do, honest I do, and that includes the humour, not all of which, in hindsight, I must admit I probably didn't get. Until now. I'm up to speed now.
Humour has long been used in noir and I tend to see it as providing some insight into the human character and how culture works, though Al has assured me again and again that he writes only to entertain and I find that funnier and funnier the more he says it.
I have to say, referring back to an earlier Davemail that I can't imagine how anyone would think that Thompson wasn't knowingly writing humour, and more specifically satire, when he wrote Pop 1280. As I think I've said here before, I recognized many of the techniques he used as also being used in Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town, written by Stephen Leacock many years before. Not that I have any knowledge of Thompson reading Leacock, but he probably read Twain, and I think you can findsome of the same techniques in Huck Finn. But Pop 1280 struck me as almost a noir version of Sunshine Sketches, and not because Pop 1280 had so much violence, but because of the criminality and abservations about human behaviour and rationalization.
I've no idea who blurbed those books, or why. I think Sunshine Sketches and Finn may have been recommend to me by a librarian or school teacher. It probably gave them a little ego boost, not to mention it being their jobs so I guess you could say they did it for the money. Still, they were good recommendations.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 12:56 PM
Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Slapstick-Silly Noir
Brian, that's the thing--one person's disarming humor is another person's flame. But enough of that.
About "over-the-top" noir, I think this is a growing trend now in publishing, although I'm not sure how noirish these books really are. But I do think publishers are trying to attract more male readers with books that bridge the gap between novels and graphic novels, and these tend to have way over the top violence that to some at least can be labeled comical, and they also tend to move faster, with less reality or believability, and usually populated with more cartoonish unrealistic characters. Beat the Reaper and Severance Package are two recent examples, and Huston's pulp noir trilogy probably fits here also, although I think his protagonist was strongly developed in Caught Stealing, with the later two books showing more of the cartoonish characterizations. At the same time as publishers are gravitating towards these more over-the-top faster-paced books where the violence tends to be too unrealistic to be felt as real, they're also shying away from books that they feel a
re too dark and the violence has a more realistic punch to it (more of what we tend to think of as noir).
At least that's my take on it.
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