Weirdboiled or Noird?

China Mieville and Jeff Vandermeer have blogged about the recent proliferation of noir/crime fiction gone weird.  (See China’s post here, and Jeff’s here.)

China proposed a name for the literary movement. “Noird” (prounounced Nward).   In April’s Bookslut, Geoffrey Goodwin described my work as “weirdboiled,” which I have to admit, thrills me to no end.  So in the race of meme nomenclature, I self-servingly have to give the nod to weirdboiled.

(*aside: I’m giving Geoffrey Goodwin credit for weirdboiled as he’s the first person I’ve found to put the term in print or pixels.  I happily invite Nick Mamatas, Hannah Bowen, and livejournal user infinitehotel to duke it out with Geoffrey for creator’s credit.*)

The weird detective story has been around for a while of course.  Some of my favorite examples are Jonathan Lethem’s Gun With Occasional Music, PK Dick’s Do Andriods Dream… and A Scanner Darkly,  and Bukowski’s Pulp.  More recently we had Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, and the novels of Jack O’Connell (particularly my favorite, Word Made Flesh).

But here in the ’09, there’s been a proliferation of weirdboiled novels: Jedidiah Berry’s The Manual of Detection (think noir and Borges), Brian Evenson’s Last Days (think noir and Grand Guignol), China Mieville’s The City and The City (think noir, and well, Mieville), national book award winner Denis Johnson’s Nobody Move (serialized noir), Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice (think noir, and well, Pynchon), and coming in the fall are two books I’ve had the honor of reading early and giving blurbs to: from Underland Press, Jeff Vandermeer’s Finch (think noir and Ambergris) and from Small Beer Press, Vincent McCaffrey’s Hound. And, there’s my own, The Little Sleep, which I add not because of quality but because of subject matter.  Hey, I’m happy to do my own little part in the zeitgeist, all right?

Why all these books now?  Hell if I know.  The cynical pessimist might say it’s an example of publishers trying to capitalize on a built-in market of mystery readers.  In this instance, I choose a more optimistic outlook.  I think the recent spate of weirdboiled fiction is a positive sign, a sign that writers and readers aren’t satisfied with fiction always conforming to genre expectations, that more writers and readers want to mix and mash and muddy it all up.   Muddy isn’t nice or safe, but it is real, weird or not.

So while I’m not down with the name “Noird,” I do adore China’s sum-up description of the Noird fiction:

“Detective fiction with a deeply sceptical relationship to the supposedly everyday, whether it eschews morality or not.

What to say: ‘All crime fiction is dream fiction really, of course.’”

5 Comments

Filed under The Little Sleep

5 responses to “Weirdboiled or Noird?

  1. Jeff VanderMeer

    It’s weird to me, too, no pun intended, re the timing. I conceived of Finch in 1998, made radical changes to the plot but not the central concept, added characters, from 2004 through 2006, and just happened to finish it in time for 2009 publication. I don’t know if the proliferation is a good or bad thing in general, but I do know Finch is radically different from Manual and from City & the City, and not just because of the secondary world setting. Let’s just say Kafka wasn’t really on my mind so much as PKD/Ballard and a host of the really hard-core noir/hardboiled mystery writers. Both Manual and City & the City seem much less physical/visceral to me than Finch. Not a bad thing, just a difference.

    • thelittlesleep

      Having read all three books, I totally agree that they are very different (and all three very, very, good) in feel and in execution.

  2. Blogged about this interesting phenomenon (movement?) recently, here:
    http://www.jeffreyethomas.com/blog/?p=161
    Picked up THE MANUAL OF DETECTION as my Father’s Day gift; greatly looking forward to it. I eagerly anticipate THE CITY & THE CITY, too. FINCH? Read it, loved it big-time, watch that blog of mine for a review soon.

  3. Pingback: In (brief!) defense of genre mixing - Babel Clash

  4. Pingback: HTMLGIANT / INTERVIEW WITH PAUL TREMBLAY ABOUT SLEEP

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