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

From: sonny (
Date: 17 Aug 2010

  • Next message: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Re:Noir -- Penzler, Kerry, Brian, Jack and MRT"

    wow, has that ever been done fictionally? death AS a salesman? it must have been.

    --- On Tue, 8/17/10, <> wrote:

    > From: <>
    > Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re:Noir -- Penzler, Kerry, Brian, Jack and MRT
    > To:
    > Date: Tuesday, August 17, 2010, 3:01 PM
    > Death IS a Salesman? I used to be in
    > sales. Is that a freudian slip? Too noirish for me to
    > contemplate any further.
    > Best etc.
    >   ----- Original Message -----
    >   From:
    >   To:
    >   Sent: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 2:47 PM
    >   Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re:Noir -- Penzler, Kerry,
    > Brian, Jack and MRT
    >   Thanks David. Something to chew on. My first thought
    > is that both Greek tragedy, as you lay it out, and noir
    > highlight the inherent futility of human morals and values.
    > My point would be that they are intended to transcend the
    > human condition rather than confront it or adapt to it and
    > the tragedy is that they cannot do this. So in that sense
    > noir is Greek tragedy, though perhaps we might recognize
    > Noir as the Grecian Formula.
    >   Similarly Loman's ideals prevent him from adapting
    > to his circumstances. Death Is a Salesman is not noir unless
    > you consider suicide a crime (which the law does) and noir
    > is in the genre of crime fiction. For some that means the
    > protagonist must be more than criminal but depraved, but I
    > think that is not essential to the genre and in some cases
    > I'd suggest this is just an inability to empathise with the
    > character's plight. I see Sam Spade as a doomed character in
    > this sense: damned if he does and damned if he doesn't run
    > off with Ms. O'Shaugnessey.
    >   Anyway, yes, Greek tragedy and noir pretty damned
    > close, dependent upon whether you see catharsis as coping or
    > a route to transcendence. Gets sticky, I'll admit.
    >   Best,
    >   Kerry
    >   ----- Original Message -----
    >   From: David Corbett
    >   To:
    >   Sent: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 1:47 PM
    >   Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re:Noir -- Penzler, Kerry,
    > Brian, Jack and MRT
    >   Excuse me if I'm contributing to this topic after
    > the parade has passed, I've been outside reliable Internet
    > range. I've had a chance now to catch up, read all the
    > postings now, as well as Otto's piece (Otto the relentless
    > conservative writing for the Huffington Post -- now THAT is
    > noir).
    >   I don't have anything scintillating to add, except I
    > notice that the discussion of tragedy seems limited to
    > Shakespeare. I wrote a piece for Crimespree a few years back
    > titled "Noir, Tragedy and Other Dreary Bummers," that
    > covered some of this same terrain, but my tragedy references
    > were Greek, which I think is non-trivial since Athenian
    > tragedy had such an influence on existentialists like Camus
    > and Sartre, and they in turn had such an influence on crime
    > writing (and vice versa -- Camus reportedly claimed THE
    > STRANGER was a response to POSTMAN).
    >   One key point: the Greeks did not see tragedy as a
    > means to "transcendence" but to catharsis, which entailed a
    > shared identification with the hero, not a sense of
    > transcending his plight, despite the fact the hero was
    > portrayed as somewhat different than ordinary men or women.
    > Sophocles is credited with inventing the tragic hero, and he
    > used the word "deinos" to describe him, a word that combines
    > terrible, wondrous and strange in its meaning. He was seen
    > as both repellent and admirable, and his strangeness lay in
    > his relation to the gods--he was portrayed as isolated, and
    > the gods largely absent. This resonates with Camus' idea of
    > the "benign indifference" of the universe. (In Euripides,
    > the gods weren't absent; they were all too present: petty,
    > callous, vengeful.)
    >   But in both Sophocles and Euripides, the hero faces
    > a crisis in which disaster can only be averted by a
    > compromise that, in his or her view, would constitute a
    > betrayal of something he or she considers supremely
    > important. The hero refuses to make this compromise and is
    > thus destroyed. Antigone has to choose between loyalty to
    > the state in a time of civil war or devotion to her brother
    > and the rituals of burial. Orestes has to avenge the murder
    > of his father, but this requires the murder of his mother,
    > which is strictly forbidden. In all these cases, the moral
    > choices are not obvious or easy. (Antigone after the 1960s
    > was seen as a "rebel," but the Greeks abhorred her refusal
    > to obey Creon, even as they sympathized with her devotion to
    > Polynices, her brother.)
    >   Aristotle, writing a century later in his POETICS,
    > argued that the best tragic protagonist was neither a
    > righteous nor villainous man, but "a man not pre-eminently
    > virtuous and just [but] whose misfortune . . . is bought
    > upon him not by vice or depravity but by some error of
    > judgment."
    >   This is where I believe a dividing line between
    > tragedy and noir might be meaningfully drawn. Not in some
    > intrinsic belief in hope or transcendence (tragedy) versus
    > the absence of same, but in whether the hero's misfortune is
    > caused by an error of judgment -- caused by his own nature
    > or our inability to predict perfectly the consequences of
    > what we do -- as opposed to "vice or depravity."
    >   Willy Loman is a tragic hero because he cannot give
    > up his belief in the American dream, even as it destroys him
    > and his family. This is an error of judgment (a "tragic
    > flaw," a concept almost as widely abused and misunderstood
    > as noir), but not a sign of depravity. As pretty much
    > universally noted here on the list, Frank Chambers in
    > POSTMAN and George Neff in DOUBLE INDEMNITY suffer their
    > misfortunes because of their own embrace of lust and greed.
    >   Or is that too tidy?
    >   David Corbett
    >   [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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