Los Angeles, France, and the Search for a New Noir

Salonica has a great post from Larry Fondation about LA and the search for a writer that encompass the city. What makes it even more interesting is it was published in France as a kind of what Americans should do next. While Noir is a and LA are fascinating as our the American writers of the 30’s I’m not sure if they are the salvation Fondation sees.

Outside a select and celebrated few – Cain, Chandler and West among them — most 1930s authors have been neglected, forgotten, ignored or downplayed in the United States. Writers such as James T. Farrell, Ellen Glasgow, Jack Conroy and Henry Roth rarely get their due. Even John Dos Passos’ masterpiece, The USA Trilogy, remains vastly underappreciated.

Instead, many critics trumpet the Post-World War II era of American fiction as a kind of Golden Age.  I take the opposite view. Much of the literature of the past several decades has been overly introspective and self-indulgent. University writing programs turn out scores of harmless craftspeople, superficially skilled stylists who have nothing to say. Chain bookstore shelves are redolent with works of glittering shit, finely wrought bits of nothing, the fool’s gold of the written word.

For decades now, there has been no Fante, no Nelson Algren, no Jack London or Stephen Crane. Yet the new realities of our age, a time of limits, will force our literature once again to address the margins – as it did in the 1930s.  This will reinvigorate American literature, and great public fiction will again emerge from Los Angeles.  I am naturally suspicious of the glamour of gold.  But our times will almost forcibly birth a new era in American writing: the Literature of Iron — a fresh body of enduring, meaningful and deeply moving work, work that matters.

The social realism/noir of the writers, I’m not sure are the answer (although, perhaps no answer is needed), but there is a grit to them that sometimes seems to be missing. Unless you are into the Dirty Realism mentioned in the Program Era, where the external fight against society or the machinations that it closes in on one are replaced by the internal and self destructive so that in the former alcoholism is what a tough world forces on you, and in the latter humans self destruct because of weakness and inner daemons.

I do find his statement the NWA’s Straight Out of Compton the best novel of LA in the last 20 years to be spot on. Too bad that album has generated so many lesser imitations.

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