Re your comment below:
"Jim, I don't see how you can claim that Duhamel's definition of noir is the
correct one, and then completely ignore it."
I'm not ignoring it. I'm just not considering it a definition, per se. It's a list of things readers might expect when they pick up a novel in the line. But it's not a list of elements that can be found in every single book published under the line.
For example, at one point Duhamel says:
"'In them there are police more corrupt than the criminals they're chasing.'"
If that was an essential part of a definition, then it would necessarily follow that in every single book published under the SERIE NOIRE lable, the cops would have to be more crooked than the crooks. Without exception. Because otherwise, it's not a definition.
But Richard Deming's THE CASE OF THE COURTEOUS KILLER was published by Gallimard as part of the SERIE NOIRE line. This was a novel based on the TV series DRAGNET, and cops didn't come any straighter than Joe Friday as portrayed by Jack Webb. Some of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels also appeared under the SERIE NOIRE banner.
So, it then follows that, while corrupt cops may be a common feature of SERIE NOIRE novels, they are not a defining feature.
And if ANY element in what you described as a definition is not a defining feature, than it further follows that NONE of them are defining features, per se. They are descriptions of elements that will be commonly found in many of the books, but they are not required elements that will be found in ALL of the books. Which means that what you described as a definition is not a definition at all, and was never meant to be understood as a definition.
Not every book in the SERIE NOIRE line had, for example, "bestial love." Not every book was devoid of introspection. Not every book had a lot of on-stage violence, "from beatings to massacres" (there is, for example, very little on-stage violence in THE MALTESE FALCON, an early SERIE NOIRE offering, particularly compared to the three novels in the Op trilogy,which were also published by SERIE NOIRE).
So we are left to discern Duhamel's implicit definition by looking at the books published and trying, to the degree possible, to discern what they all have in common.
And what the vast array of books commonly referred to as "noir" have in common.
And what the vast array of films commonly referred to as "noir" have in common.
And, in my imperfect way, what I have discerned is crime fiction with a dark and sinister atmosphere. So, I therefore conclude that what defines noir must, perforce, be crime fiction with a dark and sinister atmosphere.
I'm willing to admit that I may not be discerning enough, that there may be some element I've missed that applies to every single example that might come up, but nobody's suggested one yet.
And any alternative definition that excludes Deming's THE CASE OF THE COURTEOUS KILLER or Micky Spillane's ONE LONELY NIGHT or Hammett's THE MALTESE FALCON (and all of them have been excluded by alternative definitions offered by others here, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by default), any definition that excludes films like MURDER MY SWEET or HE WALKED BY NIGHT or LAURA (and all of them have been excluded by alternative definitions offered here, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by default) must be incorrect.
Noir is a broad brush. It always has been. You may wish it to be a narrower brush. You may not find such a broad brush useful.
But whether a broad definition fulfills your wishes, or anyone else's, or is satisfying to you, or to anyone else, isn't the point. Whether or not it's the correct definition is.
And no one else has ever offered another definition that is, at once, narrow enough to satisfy his or her preferences about what noir SHOULD be yet broad enough to encompass all that noir, historically, has been and is.
So, like it or not, we're left with the broad definition that you and others find so unsatisfying.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 17 Sep 2009 EDT