Yeah, I know, everyone's had their say. I should have had my say in the threads that are already up.

At The Rap Sheet.

On This Site.

(For the record, I like the people who've been saying these things. Hell, KBS gave me my first shot at being published.)

And most of these arguments seem to be centered around two things to me. Respecting the past and the current crop of novels can never be as good as those written before.

Screw it.

To me it sounds a lot like John Lithgow in FOOTLOOSE telling the kids they can't dance. Like how people reacted to rock and roll in the 50s. And then how the rock and roll fans reacted to rap in the 90s.

It also sounds like Bloom saying there will never be another Shakespeare.

Then why try? Why should we writers try to write something new?

People will say I haven't read the "classics." I argue that by saying I've read enough of the classics to know they don't speak to me. They don't implore me to keep reading the classics. Am I missing something that I'll like? Probably. But you know what, that's too bad.

I'm too caught up reading things that I'm enjoying.

The arguments in the articles above argue that current authors should respect the past and build and expand on it. Good, but that will still wreak of the old stuff.

No, I prefer the new writers to try something new. Whether that's overt violence bordering on comedy. Whether it's "torture porn" bordering on horror. Good for these authors to try something new. They're getting away from tradition, breaking free of it.

They're trying rap, they're trying to dance when people are saying they shouldn't.

And maybe, just maybe someone will come along... who is better than Hammet or Chandler or Cain or MacDonald.

But the pontificators are going to have to open their eyes to see it.

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I believe a lot of the excessive violence is in reaction to 9/11 and perhaps a necessary part of getting past it. The literary writers are able to confront it directly; but for crime writers, the violence has always been there so amphing it up is the most likely reaction. I think it's making a point in the hands of the finer practitioners.

My beef now is with critics who complain there is no character to like in a noir novel. For God's sake, that is noir. Who was there to like in Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice.? Why criticize people who write exactly as the genre intends? Why do you have to have a character to root for if the subject of the novel is man's sinful, weak nature? Isn't watching that scenario played out with good and biting prose as good as having a character to root for.
I agree with your second paragraph. You don't always have to have a sympathetic character to root for.

Your first paragraph I do disagree with, though. For one thing, literary fiction has always had violence too, not just crime fiction. But I think 9/11 is an easy scapegoat answer to explain away things. There was violence in the world before 9/11, and much worse than two towers collapsing. I'm not saying it wasn't a tragedy, but it's been treated in America like a phenomenon, like something that doesn't happen very much. Well, maybe it doesn't in America, but it does everywhere else.

I don't think 9/11 has had the lasting effect on America's conscience that a lot of people seem to think. For those who were involved with it, probably so. But I know I wasn't effected by it. It hasn't changed my outlook on life, and I still feel as safe as I ever did. America is still a safe place to live. Israel or Iraq--the people there have it bad on a day-to-day basis, because there is always fighting. America has none of that worry.

I don't think violence has increased in literature or movies since 9/11. OUT, a novel by Natsuo Kirino, was pubished in english in 1999 but was written several years earlier in Japan. In that book, a man takes a kind of sexual pleasure in the gaping wound of one of his victims. Two women help a friend cut up her husband's body, whom she has strangled to death, and dispose of the pieces throughout Tokyo. All that is pretty violent, on a par with whatever is out today. It's not over-the-top violence, given the context, but still, this all came from Japan before 9/11, just one example of extreme violence.

Ryu Murakami's IN THE MISO SOUP features an American psychopath being driven around the red light district of Tokyo by a young cab driver, who is made to watch the psychopath murder people for no reason. Again, this is a Japanese example. This book was written in 1997. Maybe it was a reaction to the gas attack in the Tokyo subways? Well, perhaps, but i doubt it, since Murakami wrote other violent works, such as Piercing, before 1995.

Granted these are Japanese authors, not American, but I use them as examples because I don't read much American fiction except some of the classics and every now and then when something catches my eye. But the point is that violence is everywhere, and has been everywhere, and it hasn't changed just because of 9/11, which is a pretty minor disaster when taken into the larger context of the world as a whole. Those who were involved in 9/11 I'm sure would have a different take on that, but taken everything that has happened in the world, 9/11 was no special thing. The tsunami in Indonesia has just as much impact. Not on us maybe, because we weren't involved in it, but I imagine there's still plenty of people over there reeling from it.

As far as movies go, Saw and Hostel (two of the more prominent examples of "torture porn" being thrown out lately) is not anymore violent than a bunch of other movies (Texas Chainsaw Massacre might be an example). There's better special effects right now, which add to realism, but the violence is the same kind of stuff that a lot of horror movies have. Actually, the most violent ones are the one that don't have a lot of gore, the ones where the violence is in contrast to the rest of the film such as Audition, a Japanese movies released in 1999 and based off Ryu Murakami's novel of the same name. There's no violence until the end, and then a woman cuts a man's foot off with piano wire.

In the Realm of the Senses, released in 1979, I think, is a Japanese movie where at the end, a woman cuts off her lover's penis as a culmination of a sexual act. But enough Japanese examples.

Quentin Tarantino's Resevoir Dogs was released in 1992. Pulp Fiction in 1994. These movies aren't much less violent than Kill Bill (2003, 2004), and Kill Bill was an homage to Samurai, kung fu, and Western movies (all of which would have been made before 2001. Lady Snowblood was the main inspiration, a Japanese movie from the 70s.

So anyway, using 9/11 as an explanation for more violence (if there really is any more violence than before) is an oversimplification of society and the workings of the world as a whole, which is too complexed to be permanently changed because of one relatively minor event (relative in relation to world history, that is).
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.
I know what their argument is. At the same time, reading between the lines, I see a reverence to the old stuff without allowing the new stuff to grow differently than the way the critics want it to, which is where my reaction is coming from.
I see what you mean, but the 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.
Thanks Gerald, artfully enunciated. Couldn't have said it better myself.
I treasure the classics, no secret there! But I also am just as crazy for some of the great writers of today. I also like the blends we are seeing that the Modern Noirists are bringing to the table. Writers of both sexes from around the world, bringing their flavor, their voices, their cultures, their HORMONES to Noir, which has deepened the genre in a way not acceptable in the 30's and 40's. I don't join in the argument because I like both extremes, which may seem like fence-sitting to some, but it just increases my appetite for more terrific reads by outstanding authors!
Regarding "pontification," you know, one need not be a defender of the "classics" in order to be a pontificator. One need only have an opinion (informed or otherwise) and be willing to voice it loudly.

So, if you're going to go around calling those who disagree with you names, physician (or dare I say, "Pontificator"?), first heal thyself.

And while you're at it, how about a little tolerance for views that don't agree with your own?
Well, you're right, I am pontificating. The problem I'm having here is not the categorizing of books. It's the fact that you guys make it seem like new writers shouldn't even be trying. Why can't new writers be as good or even better than the past? Granted I have said I don't like most classics, however I do like a few (Ross MacDonald, Ian Fleming, a few Chandlers)... At the same time I enjoy newer novelists more. It seems like people are writing off new novels completely... Is that what I'm doing with the classics? Yes. Does it seem ridiculous to you? Probably.

This is what it seems like to me when people writer off new stuff as well.

I grew up on comic books and paperback thrillers. I moved on to the classics in college. Now I'm more interested in reading things that come out today.

I'm making my argument with as much force and vitriol as those who grasp the classics are. It's just I'm not sitting around quoting the bible or using the word canard. The annoyance you're feeling when you read my post is intentional. I'm trying to make a point using emotions.

And might I add, that while I'm calling people names here, you pretty much spent an entire paragraph making people believe I'm stupid in the PI thread.

I'm sorry if I'm coming off harsh in these posts, but a lot of these writers are trying to be the best they can be... maybe even better than their predecessors and it's annoying to read posts that tend to have an underlying feeling that reads "Hey new guy, don't even try."
It's dangerous to read too much between the lines. You can assume any number of things. That doesn't mean the writer intended any of them. 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.
Good point Gerald. Well said.

I was going to make a sports analogy too, it seems that sports is the only area where a new player can be argued that they are better than the old, in people's eyes.
So, you're pretty much saying in your first paragraph that you're a hypocrite. Then you make vague claims (who are "you guys"?). How do you expect anyone to take you seriously this way?


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