Deep Noir Pt. 2

As to the issue of why, in 2014, a "noir" aesthetic, inclusive of formal-thematic depth, would be of wide interest once placed into circulation- the reason is fairly simple. On many levels and in many variegated contexts, few sensibilities other than "noir" could be generally and widely representative in America, against the facile breeziness of post-modernity. The Recession has created a climate, both within and without aesthetics, of entrenched circumstantial darkness and shadowy langour. Untold, unreported catastrophes may have wiped out entire sectors of the population- yet the media chirps away as though nothing has changed. American pop culture is in an advanced state of erosion and deterioration- there are no new rock stars anymore, and new American cinema not only isn't selling but is divested, for the populace, of the perceived glamour which used to enable it to sell. The secret passageways which used to make America interconnect have largely been severed; even as the Internet has created new labyrinths and passageways which often amount to a subversive conspiracy against the normative. The truly noir facet of the Internet is that it allows the American public to understand how and why its been duped; and what's left of a thinking American populace is cognizant of these things. The Apparition Poems were written to hold down a cultural fort radically on the side of haute culture and high art, scribed by a single author from within the bounds of the United States. For those watching closely, and who know how the American literary landscape has largely been configured over long and short periods of time, this congeries of circumstances is a rebellion and an innovation. That the Apparition Poems are not only indigenously American (if standing, aesthetically, on the shoulders of historical Europe) but indigenously Philadelphian is another innovation- the creation of literary Philadelphia, in the twenty-first century, has to do with the noir elements already built into Philly as a mythological construct.

Philadelphia, much more so than New York (which offers, to my eyes, nothing labyrinthine beneath a bold, brusque surface) is perpetually ravaged by contradictions and conflicting internal imperatives- the Main Line surface/patina is all about the prestige of old money; South Philly prizes blue-collar, ethnic simplicity, but falsely and disingenuously (against the complex and baroque machinations of the South Philly mob); the mob also runs at least partly other suburbs supposed to be middle-class, and standardized to American suburban norms, which they are not; and the "noir" sense, at the end of things, is that Philadelphia is a shadow-plagued city, and what you see is certainly not what you get here. The representatively Philadelphian surface/depth tensions, including our relationship to Philadelphia's sublime architecture, are what make the city fertile ground for high art, rooted in formidably intellectual narratives, slanted towards the stylized chiaroscuro of noir symbolization and signification. Every thoughtful Philadelphian has their own Philadelphia narrative. Philadelphia, in fact, may be taken as the secret (as well as original) capitol of America, and much of America's internal darkness is exteriorized/embodied with precision in our labyrinths here. From a certain angle, for Philadelphia to produce representative American high art is no stretch at all- higher art requires higher faithfulness to complex human truth. Because complexities are difficult, both to perceive and to assimilate, they are, or can be, dark. If my version of noir borrows stylistically from the likes of Raymond Chandler, the substance of the art is uniquely set within its own thematic manner/mode of confused, perplexing darkness. Yet attempts to unearth deep truth, when performed skillfully, are always cathartic, as pitiful and terrible as the deep (noir) truth can be, and in this, this art finds its strength and metier.