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A Summer of Further Discontent: Noir Fiction and the City
Thu, August 29, 2019 @ 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
An event every week that begins at 7:30 PM on Thursday, repeating until Thu, September 19, 2019
The powers of corruption rife in every pore surrounding the practice of capital accumulation will sell us the spikes we pump heroin into our veins with, made from steel similar to the bullets thugs and cops will use to enforce what capital takes from within and without of shifting what is legality, threatening each and all in cities large and small all over the world who would stand up to the corruption or seek to upend any contour of business as usual. An
July 11 and 18
Written in poetic and affecting prose, Jeet Thayil’s luminous debut novel charts the evolution of a great and broken metropolis across three decades. A rich, hallucinatory dream that captures Bombay in all its compelling squalor, Narcopolis completely subverts and challenges the literary traditions for which the Indian novel is celebrated. It is a book about drugs, sex, death, perversion, addiction, love, and God and has more in common in its subject matter with the work of William S. Burroughs or Baudelaire than with that of the subcontinent’s familiar literary lights. Above all, it is a fantastical portrait of a beautiful and damned generation in a nation about to sell its soul.
July 25 and August 1
The Expendable Man
Dorothy B. Hughes
“It was surprising what old experiences remembered could do to a presumably educated, civilized man.” And Hugh Denismore, a young doctor driving his mother’s Cadillac from Los Angeles to Phoenix, is eminently educated and civilized. He is privileged, would seem to have the world at his feet, even. Then why does the sight of a few redneck teenagers disconcert him? Why is he reluctant to pick up a disheveled girl hitchhiking along the desert highway? And why is he the first person the police suspect when she is found dead in Arizona a few days later?
Dorothy B. Hughes ranks with Raymond Chandler and Patricia Highsmith as a master of mid-century noir. In books like In a Lonely Place and Ride the Pink Horse she exposed a seething discontent underneath the veneer of twentieth-century prosperity. With The Expendable Man, first published in 1963, Hughes upends the conventions of the wrong-man narrative to deliver a story that engages readers even as it implicates them in the greatest of all American crimes.
August 8 and 15
The Instant Enemy
Generations of murder, greed and deception come home to roost in time for the most shocking conclusion ever in a Lew Archer novel. At first glance, it’s an open-and-shut missing persons case: a headstrong daughter has run off to be with her hothead juvenile delinquent boyfriend. That is until this bush-league Bonnie & Clyde kidnap Stephen Hackett, a local millionaire industrialist. Now, Archer is offered a cool 100 Gs for his safe return by his coquettish heiress mother who has her own mysterious ties to this disturbed duo. But the deeper Archer digs, the more he realizes that nothing is as it seems and everything is questionable. Is the boyfriend a psycho ex-con with murder on the brain or a damaged youngster trying to straighten out his twisted family tree?
August 22 and 29
The End of the Wasp Season
When wealthy Sarah Erroll is murdered at her home in a posh part of Glasgow the local community is stunned. Heavily pregnant with desperately-wanted twins, DS Alex Morrow is called into a scene so violent that experienced officers can hardly bear to look.
On the other side of town, Thomas Anderson is told by the headmaster at his boarding school that his tyrannical father – a banker responsible for the loss of many livelihoods in the recession – has hanged himself from the old oak tree on the lawn of their home. Thomas returns to the family home to find his mother and sister in a state of shock. The head of the household is dead, yet their initial reaction is not that of grief, but relief. As Alex Morrow makes the connections between the two cases, she faces her greatest challenge yet as her work and home lives collide with potentially disastrous consequences.
September 12 and 19
translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith,
with an introduction by Luc Sante
Nada is the most overtly political of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s dark thrillers, a critique of the terrorism that tempted a sliver of the ultra-left in France (and elsewhere) in the wake of the disillusions of 1968. The novel chronicles the kidnapping and eventual killing of an American ambassador by an anarcho-terrorist group who have espoused armed struggle. A rough equivalent to this story might be the saga of the ill-fated Symbionese Liberation Army in California, whose fiery elimination is reminiscent of the police massacre of Manchette’s fictional direct-action group in Nada. The novel is in no sense a political pamphlet, however, and readers who have come to appreciate the very special qualities of Manchette’s writing, and the cool noir style that he inherits in part from Dashiell Hammett and calls “behaviorist,” will not be disappointed in the tour de force that is Nada.
The MEP LITERATURE GROUP has been meeting to discuss literature since the first days of The Marxist Education Project. The group last year completed a second summer of readings of noir, considering works by Hammett, Chandler, Manchette, and others. Other studies have included novels related to World War I, the global depression of the 1930s, borders and migration, and the literature of mutually assured destruction and more.