Re: RARA-AVIS: Richard Wheeler on Noir readership.

From: Brian Thornton (
Date: 17 Sep 2010

  • Next message: Kevin Burton Smith: "RARA-AVIS: Re: The Long Goodbye"

    Good lord, what must he think of Shakespeare's tragedies or anything by Tolstoy?

    The point is the "agon," the "struggle." Not all noir ends badly for the main characters- and it's not necessarily a somber death march- there are light moments and humor (Thinking of the patter back and forth between the kids in the gang as well as between the black cops in Chester Himes' "The Real Cool Killers," for example) littering the pages of noir fiction. Most of the best ones take until the last page to play out. For the record, I consider Hammett's "The Glass Key" and "The Maltese Falcon" to be absolutely noir, especially in their outcomes. People are ruined by circumstances coupled with their own compulsions/choices, just not the POV characters.

    A commensurately gross oversimplification regarding "westerns" (and full disclosure, my first published mystery story was a western set in an isolated Montana train depot during the Cheyenne uprising of 1874) would be to ask why "supposedly civilized people" would want to read about violent, well-armed, over-muscled, anti-social sociopathic loners 'taming' a land where the indigenous people were being slaughtered systematically by both disease and bullets.

    Neither of these descriptions is accurate.


    On Fri, Sep 17, 2010 at 8:33 AM, James Michael Rogers <>wrote:

    > I got a huge kick out of this comment by western writer Richard Wheeler on
    > his blog:
    > "I don't really fathom readers of noir fiction, or grasp what makes them
    > tick. Noir is largely absurd literature, in which characters behave in
    > wildly irrational and destructive ways to foster a creaky and ludicrous
    > plot. Even a child would know that such fiction is absurd, and I believe
    > readers of noir are well aware of it. My guess is that they enjoy the
    > schadenfreude, the pleasure derived from witnessing other people's misery,
    > and that readers of noir are basically mean bastards, because there is
    > nothing else in noir that attracts supposedly civilized people. Devotees of
    > noir are a nasty bunch. "
    > James
    > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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


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