Thursday, July 05, 2007

New vs. Noir in a Nutshell

Below is a roundup of my observations on the Neo-Noir debate sparked by Kevin Burton Smith's post to The Rap Sheet. First, my comment on Kevin's post:

"...I think noir as a label has been overused. My rough understanding of the term noir is that it involves a bleak atmosphere populated by tragically flawed characters. Now look at Akashic's Noir anthology series (which I've enjoyed on the whole). I wouldn't describe all the stories as noir, particularly not Paul Levine's "Solomon and Lord Drop Anchor" in Miami Noir. I'm a big fan of Levine's work and he did 'dark' well for the Solomon vs. Lord book Kill All The Lawyers, but the aforementioned story wasn't very dark—not as dark as Christine Kling's Miami Noir story, in which a girl takes revenge after being repeatedly raped by her father."

My responses to Dave White's "The Noir Thing" topic posted to Crimespace:

"The argument is that new books are being labeled noir when they don't have much connection to noir at all—thematically, stylistically, etc. To look at this from a different perspective, if a novel doesn't feature a P.I., should it be called a P.I. novel? It's that sort of erosion people don't want. Authors don't want their books misrepresented, and readers don't want their genre concepts obliterated. It's not so much an argument against the new as it is an argument against speciously connecting the new to the established."

"...[T]he critical reaction is due in part to established labels being applied to the new stuff. If the new stuff didn't have the established label, people wouldn't be as quick to compare the two."

"...To my mind it is a categorization issue. It's about the speed with which new writers are compared to established ones—similar to Kobe Bryant being called the next Michael Jordan or LeBron James being called the next Kobe. If society really believes individuals should be judged on their own merits, if we really believe the new are new, we wouldn't judge them in terms of their predecessors. No one would make the case that So-and-so is even better than a predecessor. We would recognize the new as a genuine departure from what came before.

The problems are a lot of today's fiction isn't a genuine departure from the past and what does depart is often unfairly given an established label."

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