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Old 03-20-2020, 04:41 PM   #31
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fantasyfan; kudos for a very interesting take on the book. Your assessment of the characters and the social order stuck me as spot on! But since I’m not very familiar with noir as a genre, I just didn’t realize those were positive attributes. So now I’m better informed - thanks
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Old 03-20-2020, 07:54 PM   #32
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I suspect that while those very well described attributes of the book make it the prototypical of the noir, hard-boiled detective novel, they're why it hasn't aged all that well except for its historical significance as an example of the genre. It's really the genre that hasn't aged all that well. At least for my modern tastes.
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Old 03-20-2020, 08:29 PM   #33
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Along the lines of what you were saying, CRussel, about the genre not ageing well...

issybird noted that it seemed to turn into a self-parody, and I suspect this is helped along by decades of b-grade gangster movies with their exaggerated tough-guy accents etc. It becomes hard to take the bluster very seriously against such a backdrop, so now it reads like a comedy that misses all the punch-lines.
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Old 03-20-2020, 08:44 PM   #34
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It does feel a bit like a parody of itself, doesn't it? But, of course, that's because of everything that's come since. I suppose we need to remember that this was among the early examples of the genre. This doesn't really change my personal opinion of the book, but does set it in context.
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Old 03-20-2020, 10:38 PM   #35
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Well, I like the genre, generally--I'm not so much a fan of the hardboiled detective, but I like the seediness and the moral morass and the femme fatales in noir, though I don't know quite why. Maybe it's all the old B&W Warner Bros. movies I watched growing up.

I think it's aged well enough. I was quite willing to enter into its world; what didn't impress me in The Maltese Falcon was the character Sam Spade and the writing--I didn't like how Spade seemed all-knowing (e.g., immediately realizing Brigid's initial story was fake, based on what, exactly?).

If anyone's interested in a feminine take on noir, I recommend Megan Abbott's first four novels: Die a Little, The Song Is You, Queenpin (the best of the four), and Bury Me Deep. (Her later novels are terrific but not noir.) Abbott also wrote The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity and Urban Space in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, which mostly examines James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, and Chester Himes, but includes several references to Hammett and The Maltese Falcon.
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Old 03-21-2020, 11:13 AM   #36
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One thing to remember about reading old fiction.

It is not your world of today. One has to accept it on its own terms, in the time and place in which it was written.

Other times will have the same problems with the world of today's fiction.
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Old 03-21-2020, 12:29 PM   #37
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Certainly true, Greg, and mostly I can enjoy it at that level. Sometimes, however, while I can recognize the context of the times, the result is still something I don't particularly want to read. Or, having read, didn't particularly enjoy.

That was the case with this book. Yes, I understand its place in time and genre, but I find my tolerance for "manly men doing manly things in a manly way", and being jerks while they do it, is decreasing with every year I get older. Which is NOT to say that I don't enjoy books from the 20's and 30's. Just that the protagonists have to have something going for them beyond what we see here.
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:30 PM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Anos View Post
One thing to remember about reading old fiction. [...]
It's just as likely to be crap* as modern fiction.


* to our individual tastes, of course.
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:43 PM   #39
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Sturgeon's Law, of course.

But when I read fiction, I'm taking a "magic carpet ride" to place that I can never go to in life. Whether it is Trantor, or the Mississippi of the 1840's, or riding in the Old West, or a thousand and one other days (and nights). I know the inns may not be the best and the people annoying, or maybe the the opposite, the sheets silk and the maidens alluring.

The one thing I don't complaint about is the lack of McDonalds. Which is what I was trying to get across.
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Old 03-21-2020, 07:52 PM   #40
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Sure. But recognising that sexism, racism etc. were part of the time doesn't mean we can't comment on it. Especially, as in this case, where the offences are quite egregious, even as compared to other works of the period.

If you visit us here a bit more often you will come to know that most of us read fairly widely, including a lot of older fiction.
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Old 03-21-2020, 10:35 PM   #41
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I apologize that I'm very late to the discussion. It's been an interesting week, and I was too busy with other life and work things to adjust to these times.

As mentioned previously, I read this book when the old club picked it. I did not find it to my tastes to continue on with other works such as Thin Man. I have, however, seen the movie and enjoyed it more. My husband loves the old-time radio adaptations of Sam Spade, and I sometimes listen along with him. I enjoy those more than the book too.

I think that this book might be hard-boiled rather than noir, but the nuances of these distinctions are lost on me (then add further confusion that the film is film noir). Hard-boiled detective novels are not a genre that I have experience reading.

I did not realize that Hammett was a Pinkerton detective so he had real-life experience for his characters. I also did not know that Dashell Hammett's given name was Samuel! Another interesting thing I learned is that the book was serialized in five parts in Black Mask in 1929 and 1930 before being published as a book. I did not know that serialization was relevant in that time period.
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