Penzler, like you Jack, is almost there, but not quite. Hardboil and Noir not the same thing: right on. Noir about doomed characters: right on. But he goes off the rail with his comments about a lack of morality in noir characters in general and about Spade's moral code specifically. The Maltese Falcon is noir precisely because Spade's moral code dooms him to a miserable, sex in place of love existence. His moral code prevents him from taking a shot at love with O'Shaugnessey to transcend her (and his?) evident corruption, dooming him to an existence of loveless sex with his former partner's wife. His decision to investigate Archer's murder is more good business sense than morality but if taking care of business is a moral code, it is a morality is unmoved by hope and the other stuff that dreams are made of.
Penzler is right that much of detective fiction is a romantic fantasy, and this is true of Chandler. But it is also true of morality. Morality is the hope that an inspired code of behaviour will allow humans to transcend their own nature and the daily compromises of existence. This is a thoroughly romantic notion and the brilliance of The Maltese Falcon is that it reveals how this falsity stumbles into its own clunky logic. True love, Christian or romantic love, requires trust that logical behaviour does not permit. Noir stands in contrast to this romanticism. Noir is about the failure of transcendence, and how we live with it.
Best wishes for a romantic doom,
----- Original Message -----
From: Jack Bludis
Sent: Tuesday, August 10, 2010 5:35 PM
Subject: RARA-AVIS: "Noir Fiction Is About Losers, Not Private Eyes" Otto Penzler
You can find Otto Penzler's article by the title in the Huffington Post dated
The URL is:
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