Friday, September 14, 2007

Noir (and Havana)

I won't have my review ready for a couple of days, but I've been reading the new Havana Noir (edited by Achy Obejas for the Akashic Noir series), and I can't resist passing on the excellent thoughts on noir that Obejas offers in her introducton. She says that, "Descriptive rather than prescriptive, noirs explore the symptoms of an ailing society but rarely suggest remedies. They are frequently contestataire in their unblinking portraits but unnervingly apolitical. Their protagonists are alienated and at risk, caught in ethical quandaries outside of their control, and driven to the very edge." She adds that, "Crime stories, especially those with detective protagonists, try to find order, to right things; noirs wearily revel in the vacuum of values, give in to conflict not as a puzzle to be solved but as a cul-de-sac. Noirs explore and expose but refuse to solve." I've been seeking adequate definitions of "noir" since I started this blog, and Obejas goes a long way toward describing what is unique (and, at least to me, appealing) about the genre (if it is actually a genre rather than simply an attitude). Not that all of the stories in Havana Noir exactly fit her own definition, but at least the first half or so of the anthology (as far as I've gotten) is very good on its own terms (and the best of those among the Akashic series that I've looked at so far).

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