Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 12 Aug 2010

  • Next message: James Michael Rogers: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT"

    Oops- in my bit about MACBETH I transposed "Duncan" and "Malcolm." Obviously, Duncan is the father, the king who Macbeth murdered, and Malcolm his son. Flip those names and the bit I wrote about them makes more sense!


    On Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 10:23 AM, Brian Thornton

    > Perhaps it comes down a sense of perspective, to literal point-of-view, if
    > you will.
    > For example:
    > HAMLET- the titular character is literally blameless (at least until he
    > kills Polonius, and even then his move is potentially justifiable) in a
    > setting where there's "something rotten" in Denmark: it's obvious from the
    > first scene that the king is fiddling while things circle the drain at
    > Elsinore. More to the point, he's as much a victim of his father's murder
    > as his father. And because he "can be fretted, but not played" ("though you
    > can fret me, you cannot play me," he suspects everyone, even his own mother-
    > he ruminates on how the ghost of his murdered father might be an imp from
    > Hell looking to lead him astray- that's an intelligent response to an
    > impossible situation, and also the sign of a brilliant, suspicious mind,
    > just one step short of paranoid) he's no one's pawn in a court full of
    > people willing, aching to be used for the purposes of others (Rosencrantz
    > and Guildenstern, Laertes, Osric, Polonius, and to a lesser extent, even
    > Ophelia). Hamlet's death at the end is tragedy of literally Shakespearean
    > proportions.
    > If it's Claudius' story, it's noir (and reads a hell of a lot like
    > MACBETH). If it's Gertrude's story, it's also noir. Laertes, Polonius, R &
    > G, even Ophelia- noir.
    > KING LEAR- again, the titular character has flaws (he's petty and peevish
    > and wants to freeload off his kids), but he's basically blameless in the
    > bloodbath that follows on the heels of his decision to retire and split his
    > kingdom amongst his daughters and their husbands.
    > If it's Goneril's story, it's deep, black noir. Doubly so if it's Regan's
    > story (the bitch joined her vicious husband in plucking out the eyes of one
    > of Lear's faithful retainers right on stage. That's hard core, man). If
    > it's Cornelia's story, it's tragedy (as she was the most truly blameless of
    > characters in this play, even moreso than her foolish, prideful father). If
    > it's Edmund's story, it's really compelling noir (bastard son trading on his
    > being born on the wrong side of the blanket, playing people of station off
    > against each other until he's brought low by the sword of the legitimate
    > half-brother whom he's used, wronged, and gotten disinherited. Go back and
    > read his "Thou, Nature, art my goddess" speech in Act I. I'd read the rest
    > of that story. Wouldn't you?)
    > MACBETH- noirnoirnoir!
    > If it's Malcolm's story it's tragedy. If it's Duncan's it's HAMLET with a
    > far less compelling main character and a far happier outcome. Likewise
    > Macduff.
    > OTHELLO- noir. The guy's a basically great person, brought low by a
    > crippling jealousy (you know, that whole, "tragic flaw" thing about which
    > literary types tend to wax rhapsodic), which opens him up to being played by
    > Iago.
    > If it's Iago's story, it's noir as black and dark as Regan's (and possibly
    > as compelling as Edmund's).
    > Let's face it, Willie the Shake had quite a way with villains.
    > And don't even get me started on RICHARD III!
    > There you have it- the perspective is everything, the apple of discord has
    > been tossed into the middle of the table.
    > Thoughts?
    > Brian
    > On Thu, Aug 12, 2010 at 9:41 AM, Sean Shapiro <> wrote:
    >> Macbeth is noir because he kills to get to where he thinks he wants to be.
    >> R&J
    >> is tragedy because love should not be a crime. My two cents ...
    >> Sean Shapiro
    >> ________________________________
    >> From: " <>" <
    >> <>>
    >> To: <>
    >> Sent: Thu, August 12, 2010 5:01:47 PM
    >> Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT
    >> I take exactly the opposite track, Dave. If a moral line is crossed it's
    >> tragedy. There's an implied lesson. But in noir there's no alternative, no
    >> opportunity for redemption. Lets take Romeo & Julliette. At the end, the
    >> Prince
    >> sums up the errors of everyone's ways that led to the fatalities,
    >> encouraging
    >> better behaviour in the future. Macbeth could have avoided his end had he
    >> been
    >> less ambitious, Hamlet if he'd been more decisive. Those are tragedies.
    >> But if
    >> you believe R&J's young love is doomed regardless because love will never
    >> transcend tribalism, that's noir.
    >> Best,
    >> Kerry
    >> ----- Original Message -----
    >> From: davezeltserman
    >> To: <>
    >> Sent: Thursday, August 12, 2010 9:51 AM
    >> Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Noir -- Penzler, Kerry and MRT
    >> It has to has to be more than just a character being screwed, the
    >> character's
    >> actions have to contribute to them being screwed. A moral line has to be
    >> crossed
    >> that there's no turning back from. Otherwise, instead of noir it's
    >> tragedy.
    >> --Dave
    >> --- In <>, Jack
    >> Bludis <buildsnburns@...> wrote:
    >> >
    >> > Not sure about the conflict between what Kerry Schooley says and what
    >> Jacques
    >> >Debierue (MRT) says.
    >> >
    >> >
    >> > I agree with Kerry that the screwed character of noir may have a moral
    >> core but
    >> >it gets skewed, most often by money or the femme fatale. And yes, the PI
    >> novel
    >> >is romantic fantasy.
    >> >
    >> > MrT says of the moral code, "... such codes are rarely personal but
    >> instead are
    >> >largely societal." I've never heard that before, but it seems right on
    >> target.
    >> >Chandler's entire description of the private-eye in his famous essay
    >> points
    >> >directly to the judeo-christian ethic.
    >> >
    >> > Yes, just "Screwed" is shorthand for noir, but it does describe the
    >> protagonist
    >> >of such fiction. The absolute evil protagonist is not noir at all, but
    >> something
    >> >entirely different.
    >> >
    >> >
    >> > Jack
    >> >
    >> >
    >> >
    >> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    >> [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]


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