Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What's so funny about noir?

While we're on the subject, noir and other dark crime fiction seems often to include humor (Derek Raymond, Allan Guthrie, Ken Bruen, Scalped). Why?

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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24 Comments:

Blogger Cullen Gallagher said...

Somehow, the humor doesn't make the novels lighter, but even darker.

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Dana King said...

I rarely have anything worthwhile to add the the discussions here, given the caliber of reader peter attracts. Today is no exception.

Raymond Chandler had a thought on the subject, though.

It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization. All this still is not quite enough.

October 05, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Isn't it sort of the same principle as why life under totalitarian Communist regimes seemed to bring out a brilliant streak of dark, subversive humor?

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Heath said...

I love this topic-- not to get all about me and everything but if you're interested, I did a post about this very thing some time ago: http://psychonoir.blogspot.com/2010/11/tragedy-is-funny.html

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks, Heath. I’ll have a look when I find a computer that will stay connected for more than five seconds. Here’s a short cut to your post .

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Cullen: The darkness can add a note of desperation to the humor.

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I'd say that Chandler had it right and that you could easily pass the entrance exam to become a commenter on this blog.

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the principles must be similar: In the face of such a violent world, how can one react but to laugh? Raymond, or at least his unnamed police sergeant, and at least in I Was Dora Suarez, is yearningly romantic to the point where you and I and Raymond himself any readers is bound to know that his yearning is absurd. Has any other crime-fiction protagonist ever dared to imagine and act as if he believes in the possibility of a world without murder?

October 05, 2011  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Like in the books like in life? One of the best laughs I ever had was after one of the times my mother was sectioned.

The family went to visit her in the hospital and we all sat in the lounge staring at a switched off TV with the buttons gaffer taped up except for ITV-this was the early '80s.

One woman wandered around cleaning and another was looking out of the window waiting for a visit from Prince Phillip.

A young girl in a room near was ' in for attempting suicide.' She kept playing Helen Reddie's 'Angie Baby' over and over again. (Weirdly a song about a mad girl with a secret dead lover).

Anyway, everyone one was on edge until the song kicked in for, maybe, the fourth time and my sister Sandra said, without irony:'Ooh, drive you friggin mental hearing that all day.'

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yeah, it'll make you laugh and cry at the same time.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Paul, that is a perfect example of the thing.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Seana, one of the best things about it is that our Sandra didn't see why it was funny at the time and still doesn't when we bring it up!

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Paul, Sandra's remark was a humorous incidident. Her failure to see the humo(u)r in it is the beginning of a story.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Not everyone gets dark comedy, Paul. I don't know whether that makes them less fortunate or more fortunate.

When I was with my friend when he died in the hospital, there were some great or terrible darkly comic moments, and it didn't feel wrong to laugh at them, because Rupert would have found them most funny of all.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

When she visited my in Warsaw she was 58 and it was her first time out of England, the first time she'd flown.

She came to my flat which was in a street full of 24 hour pubs, kebab shops and peep shows. She said very little until she went to the kitchen and looked in the oven.

'Where do you keep your chip pan?'

'I don't cook chips.'

Then she looked aghast!

October 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Peter's right. She is a character for a story or novel.

As long she never finds out.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Seana, I've said many times that when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss stick a nutty on you so it's better to squint and take the piss out of it!

I've known a lot of terminally ill people and the phrase 'dead good' always cracked them up!

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

She would be a good character, Paul, but where was your chip pan?

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And I say that as a man who bought both olive oil and potatoes yesterday. I don't have to tell you what I intend to do with them.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Paul D. Brazill said...

Peter, I was brought up in the knowledge-true or not- that the major cause of death on a Friday night is chip pan fires caused by drunks.

Hence, a great fear of chip pans! Really!

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Not a great fear of drinking on a Friday night?

October 06, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

One of the last things my friend did from his hospital bed a couple of hours before he did was do a dramatic recap of the opening scenes of The Ruling Class.

Life is indeed sometimes stranger than fiction.

I don't have a chip pan either. But then, I don't even have an oven.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Boil 'em in oil on the stove, then drain them. Improvise, that is, if the chips are down.

October 06, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, that makes me want go rent the movie -- or at least it would if Philadelphia had any good movie-rental places left.

October 06, 2011  

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