Re: RARA-AVIS: "Noir Fiction Is About Losers, Not Private Eyes" Otto Penzler

From: jacquesdebierue (
Date: 11 Aug 2010

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    --- In, "gsp.schoo@..." <gsp.schoo@...> wrote:
    > 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.

    From the brilliant Falcon prequel that Joe Gores wrote, I don't think this was "loveless sex".I find the idea of "miserable sex" weird... It looks to me like Spade enjoyed it. From reading the prequel and the Falcon itself, I come away with the image that Spade was a practical man who had no great illusions about people. However, I don't see him as a doomster at all.

    > 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.

    The failure or the nonexistence, I would add. In a way, noir is realistic, since it acknowledges the existential void and tries to show it in action. About the code, it seems to me that such codes are rarely personal but instead are largely societal. They reflect what people would like things to be like, as opposed to what they are. How many times do we hear somebody say "that isn't the real me". It isn't? This strikes me as a postponing of assessing the goods, not really a credible proposition. As if to say, this bread stinks, but the ideal bread I "really" make is fantastic.



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