[ToC]

 

NOIR

Steven Moore

The characters in novels are not good-looking enough to save the medium. Reading a novel is like admitting one's loneliness, something one should never do. The death of the novel is a means of human evolution. Paul Simon's melancholy Hmmm-mmmm-Hmmm-mmmm-mmm-Hmmmm at the beginning of the song "America" is still very beautiful even though it sounds lonely. Most people don't know that "America" was recorded before the onset of electronics, before turnpikes, before Greyhound buses. It is entirely science fiction, though admittedly well-realized.
     We discourage loneliness. Loneliness is selfish. It implies that we, instead of feeling peripheral, would rather feel pivotal. Feeling pivotal is even more selfish than feeling lonely. It is best to have no feelings about oneself at all. Feel only about others, for others, the pains and common triumphs of others because others should not be feeling about themselves and require that you give them meaning. It is best to walk internally voided from your downtown apartment complex into the crowded world and upon your first encounter out there let the empathetic chemicals spark and compound. People are texts that must be read and reacted against. The texts should not feel about their own story. To do so is tastelessly postmodern and annoying. Loneliness is feeling unread or incorrectly read or accidentally written.
     The novel is not just unread but dying. Television shot it, I guess. Obliterated its heart with buckshot. Doctors on television tried to resuscitate the novel using a pair of clean, white heart-thumpers that looked to you like clothing irons. The doctors even went Clear! to make sure everyone was ready. Thumped the non-thumping heart. Taught it to thump back. The short story is dying. The album is dying. The hospital is crowded. The doctors have interesting personal lives and difficult, complicated problems in the area of love. Emergency medical situations tend to metaphorically correspond to those in the difficult, complicated area of love. Watch closely for heart transplants. I am not lonely I swear. I wouldn't even think it.
     In the film Decasia, the rate and result of deteriorating strips of film is documented and studied on further strips of film. A film can still be called a "film" even when made entirely with computers. "Film" regards, or once regarded, the physical stuff that made the story's motion possible. "Movie" regards the motion itself, the spectacle of what can be made to move.
     Even though "A long time ago" is the first line in Star Wars, the events depicted thereafter are still confused for being the future. It is not the future, and is, therefore, probably the truth. I have read, reread, and will eventually write the history of time travel. Luke, confined to a barren, planet-sized desert on an outer rim planet, was still not lonely. Staring into the setting suns, he was ambitious. The Bible is a very widely circulated book, which explains the appearance of the name Luke in a galaxy far, far away. The most beloved characteristics of the desert are its coldness at night and the technical definition that allows it to include the arctic tundra. The sun speaks in a language of heat. Coldness exists uncreated, unmotivated, apparently of darkness, of emptiness, does not swim out of mouths but into them. Coldness is a default, persistent stasis. It is unfortunately, inconveniently not produced by the moon. The moon is just an example. Neil, stepping historically onto it, misspoke. Man and Mankind are synonymous. The most "famous" line in Star Wars appears nowhere in the script, but is ironically misremembered.
     If violence does not cause blood in a particular shot, it doesn't really count as violence. The film industry's ratings association usually quantifies violence via the cinematic representation of blood, which, as a motiveless liquid, lacks any intrinsic quality of violence and is more the residue of violence. Kung-fu characters traditionally don't bleed. Cowboys fully cover the gunshot with their open hand. Also, the blood must be red to qualify. Space aliens ooze neon green. A memorable instance of cinematic blood is from Psycho's shower scene. As it circles the drain, the blood is grey like soil rinsed from the body. Most of the blood in Jaws, shoveled from a galvanized bucket into the water, is not a residue of violence but a hopeful precursor. Viewers (graduate-school aged especially) are always casting and recasting the symbolism of the shark. The truth is, the shark is an ambivalent creature trying to drink up the blood we put there, and that's all. The shark, in this respect, is a tragic hero who falls for a trap and dies (explodes) because of it. If you are a movie producer who is dissatisfied with the rating your movie has received you should re-edit the amount of blood, not the amount of violence that caused it. Tell your hero to cover the wound with an open hand.
     Water-based violence is especially attractive onscreen because the water allows blood to suspend three-dimensionally around the victim instead of settle uninterestingly on the floor. If you find yourself filming violence in a non-aquatic environment, try spattering the blood erratically onto walls, as this too will increase the apparent dimensionality of the blood and will give it a surrounding effect. Remember, though, "I am your father" is not preceded by "Luke" and remember that tundra, for its perpetual coldness, is perhaps a more perfect desert and outer space is the desert that contains deserts: loneliness echoes, and what it echoes we move through.
     An unusual and spectacular sensation is during the giving of blood when you feel the machines pulling the blood from your body. Watch closely for transplants, ensuing identity politics. It is common to feel lightheaded during the transfer. It is common for your head to feel "swimming," as if the blood is coming directly from there. It is common to feel yourself emptying, feel yourself unbecoming, removing words from the novel's middle pages. When I worked at a college bookstore, students sometimes returned books that were missing pages or pages missing words, whole chapters of blankness, whole books completely empty, and they always, always reported how long it took before they realized it was a mistake and not some gimmick they would discuss later in class. Fainting is common at the sight of blood or loss of blood or withdrawal of blood, the encounter of blood.
     A lot of violence has been traced to loneliness, specifically the loneliness of young people, who were often said to be acting out, or, acting it out, or, acting out their loneliness, or, violence is a manifestation of loneliness. The young people were said to have learned violence through movies and games. Sitting in a dark theater, separated from the audience by darkness, mostly unaware of others, isolated, flattened into darkness, darkened, unspeaking, unspoken to, were said to have learned violence but probably they were learning something else. A trope in movies is the Loner who we approve of because of the activeness of their being alone. Another kind is the Lonely who we fear for being passively alone. Movies like to institutionalize the loneliness they deny should exist.
     The young people were said to be acting. Imitating, as if it had already happened somewhere else. Putting on a show. We were implicated into being an audience, and consequently victims of an institution of loneliness. Acting is the practice of forcing others into darkness. The swimmers during the famous beach scene, out in long shots of open water, seem alone. The amount of water reminds the en-darkened audience how much room there is for sharks. The swimmers are supposed to look trapped by a landscape that once meant freedom. The monster is usually an institution. The novel is making a comeback. From where, though. Where'd it go. The novel is fine. The novel has been fine. Maybe our ability to read novels is making a comeback. Loneliness is sort of an accusation. It's sort of everyone else's fault. Quint is not lonely because we are watching him; because we are watching him, Quint is eccentric. The loner owns his aloneness, does not regret being it, and regret is the first symptom of loneliness. The shark is Hollywood, self-loathing. The shark is practically laughing the whole movie, laughing at the audience, grinning, practically hysterical, practically eating the whole bunch of us alive because we put the blood in the water.

 

 

 

 


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