A Hard-Boiled Life

There’s an ongoing discussion among some of the Snubnosers about the distinction between noir and hard-boiled, because they aren’t quite interchangeable. I tend to think of noir as a sort of mutant cousin of hard-boiled, with a sense of inevitable doom added and faced with a raised middle finger when it finally arrives. You see it in the titles sometimes: Build My Gallows High, You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, They Don’t Dance Much. You see it in the ending of Jim Thompson’s Savage Night: “And he was there, of course. Death was there. And he smelled good.”

And in a different way, you see it in Nelson Algren‘s famous “three rules of life”: “Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.” I haven’t read much Algren, but I’ve read enough to recognize him as the real stuff. At McSweeney’s spinoff The Believer, Colin Asher tells Algren’s story. You should read it, and then read Algren.


About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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