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American Noir (Library of America) Hardcover – April 26, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

ROBERT POLITO, editor, is a poet, biographer, and critic whose Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson received the National Book Critics Circle Award. He directs the Graduate Writing Program at the New School and is the editor of David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s, also from The Library of America.

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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America
  • Hardcover: 1882 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; Box edition (April 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598531530
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598531534
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 2.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #301,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've read enough of these (the Cain, Highsmith, Fearing, Thompson and Willeford selections) to know that this set is filled with classics and is really quite a bargain. I write to add more detail from the publisher's website, since there is no information on Amazon's page as to what's included.

"The eleven novels in The Library of America's adventurous two-volume collection represent a rich vein of modern American writing too often neglected in mainstream literary histories. Tapping deep roots in the American literary imagination, they explore themes of crime, guilt, deception, obsessive passion, murder, and the disintegrating psyche.
"James M. Cain's pioneering novel of murder and adultery along the California highway, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934), which shocked contemporaries with its laconic toughness and fierce sexuality.
"Horace McCoy's They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1935) uses truncated rhythms and a unique narrative structure to turn its account of a Hollywood dance marathon into an unforgettable evocation of social chaos and personal desperation.
"In Thieves Like Us (1937), Edward Anderson vividly brings to life the dusty roads and back-country hideouts where a fugitive band of Oklahoma outlaws plays out its destiny.
"The Big Clock (1946), an ingenious novel of pursuit and evasion by the poet Kenneth Fearing, is set by contrast in the dense and neurotic inner world of a giant publishing corporation under the thumb of a warped and murderous chief executive.
"William Lindsay Gresham's controversial Nightmare Alley (1946), a ferocious psychological portrait of a charismatic carnival hustler, creates an unforgettable atmosphere of duplicity, corruption, and self-destruction.
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Format: Hardcover
The Library of America has been making available many byways of American writing together with the works of writers such as, for example, Melville, Whitman, and Henry James. Among the writing the series presents is American noir, frequently denigrated as "pulp" fiction or "trash". The term "noir" is difficult to define. Noir writing is similar to harboiled, terse detective fiction. But its focus tends to be on lonely, isolated, alientated characters, on criminals or those accused of crime as opposed to detectives. Settings can be formulaic such as bars and cheap apartments. The characters are often tough, down-and-out with a past, and addicted to femme fatales. Sexuality is always a strong theme. Noir writing is atmospheric with a strong sense of place. It frequently is surprisingly introspective with moral themes not far below the surface.

This two-volume LOA set, which includes eleven novels by as many writers offers a broad introduction to noir. The first volume includes six novels from the 1930's and 1940's Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s: The Postman Always Rings Twice / They Shoot Horses, Don't They? / Thieves Like Us / The Big Clock / ... a Dead Man (Library of America) (Vol 1) while the second volume includes five novels from the 1950's Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1950s: The Killer Inside Me / The Talented Mr. Ripley / Pick-up / Down There / The Real Cool Killers (Library of America) (Vol 2). Noir literature is intertwined closely with noir movies, and each of the eleven books in this anthology has been filmed.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Library of America has several great books out and they take care of the literature they produce. This is a nice collection of noir/crime novels. Some are great character studies and some are depressing, such as 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?' and 'Pick-Up'. After finishing those two latter stories I need to put the set away and read more cheerful stuff.

Of the eleven stories included the following were made into films:

'The Postman Always Rings Twice' - filmed seven times
'Thieves Like Us' - filmed twice
'The Big Clock' - filmed twice
'They Shoot Horses, Don’t They' - filmed once, though Charlie Chaplin tried to make this movie with Marilyn Monroe but
Edgar J. Hoover got in the way!
'Nightmare Alley' - filmed once
'The Killer Inside Me' - filmed twice
'The Talented Mr. Ripley' - filmed twice
'I Married a Dead Man' - made, extremely loosely, into 'Mrs Winterbourne', apparently a comedy!
'Down There' - filmed by François Truffaut as 'Shoot the Piano Player'.

The only reason I did not give this book a full five stars is I felt the notes on the text could have been better. For example: in 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' a character accuses another of homosexuality but you need to know the poem 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' by William Wordsworth to understand the allusion. There is nothing about this reference in the notes. I wonder how many other such references I missed.

I fully recommend the Library of America for anyone who wants to build a collection of literature. The books are very well made and will last a lifetime.
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