straight down the line

Fast-talking leads to dark endings

Can’t talk, I’m reading for #noir106

The noir readings for this week were extremely compelling, and I found the use of noir in literature to be more interesting than in the visual examples I viewed for last week.

What I really enjoyed about the noir literature is the confusion and suspicion that surrounds them. A theme I noticed across many different examples was that the reader tends to enter the scene in the middle: there is not much of an introduction of characters, no background to the plot, and very-little-to-no explanation of time or place. This adds an element of confusion that leaves the reader guessing during the entire story about what exactly is going on. Adding this aspect of noir to the questionable morals that tend to permeate noir makes the characters untrustworthy, which is always confusing and fun for a reader. Yet I think the skill of these authors was in the way they were still able to sell the reader on the main character. By that, I mean that the authors still made the main character someone you wanted to read about; I wanted to know their story, and therefore, in a way, I wanted them to succeed in whatever situation they were in because that might mean I learn more about them. The authors somehow created an attachment to these characters who, themselves, seem so detached from everyone. The suspicion, the confusion, and the questioning of a character’s, well, character was so enthralling and one of the most interesting themes I noticed.

Another thing I enjoyed, as someone who has alway appreciated reading and writing, was the ability of these authors to convey noir visuals through text. The themes that emerged in last week’s visual examples were still present in these readings. The simple and terse descriptions of setting painted the mysterious image that is conveyed on film through use of dim lighting and intense shadowing. I pictured the noir aesthetic perfectly.

It started to rain and the red, dusty earth thickened until it turned to mud and the sound of the rainfall grew louder and he couldn’t hear the snakes anymore, couldn’t hear anything at all. He stood to go inside but saw the light come on in the tack shed. The light flickered, made the shadows swim in the rain, and was gone, blown out and William waited for the smell of the kerosene but it drowned in the rain.

Give them until morning, he thought.

-From “Driftwood,” Michael Caleb Tasker

Additionally, I noticed that these stories utilized a heavy amount of dialogue, which I think contributed majorly to the conveyance of a noir feeling. As discussed last week, noir is focused majorly on compositional tension rather than physical action, which I think is brought out through the use of succinct back-and-forth dialogue. As I read, my mind flipped back and forth between characters. They weren’t moving, but the rapid pace of dialogue kicked up the tension of the story.

From "The Postman Always Rings Twice" by James M. Cain
From “The Postman Always Rings Twice” by James M. Cain

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