Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Is Noir Depresing?

This year, I'll have two major publications to add to my credit (Yes. I am keeping score.) and they're both noir. For the novel, The Concrete Maze, I think I may have hedged my bets. It's not quite as bleak as it could have been though it is plenty bleak I think.

With the short story, "Early Fall" coming out in late summer in the antho Bronx Noir, I've written a truly noir story. There's no light at the end of the tunnel. There's not even a tunnel (which might suggest a way out).

Some of my favorite novels of the past few years, certainly some of my favorite mysteries, have been noir in nature. I think of Moony's Road to Hell by Manuel Ramos and Dope by Sara Gran and Megan Abbott's books. There are others. In any event, one has to wonder what could possibly draw anyone to such a book. After all, if it is mere verisimilitude (the world is such, let us read books that show that) we could get the same effects from simply living, no?

And in fact, the world is not such. After all, there may be noir parts of the world, there are child soldiers, child prostitutes and evil people to exploit them, for instance. But there are also good people. Overall, there is more good than bad. Evidence, you say? We're still here. We've had the power to destroy ourselves for a long time now. There is a noir side to the world to be sure, but it's not everything.

Then is it for the thrill of violence and the vicarious pleasure of inhabiting a world filled with bad people? Or is it to watch a hero struggle against odds we know are impossible (it says so on the back of the book) and which even the hero realizes are impossible. To watch someone fight the good fight we don't have the courage to fight ourselves? As Jimmy Stewart said in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: "You fight hardest for the lost causes. Those are the only ones worth fighting for." (Okay, that was a paraphrase.)

Or what? What could draw a reader to a story that is so dark?


Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

I think there is something to be said for the safety with which we can address things in a book. When all is bleak and horrid for the characters there it makes your own life seem okay.

I do think we tend to regard what is dark as more profound. In the same way that you don't typically see comedies nominated for Best Movie Oscars, people regard books with more 'serious' themes as more important. Even amongst classics there's a lot of depressing stuff - Hamlet automatically springs to mind.

April 04, 2007 7:28 PM  

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