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    characters vs. information II

    It occurs to me that the protagonists of most "whodunit" novels or (some?) noirs are engaged in turning information into knowledge, and that part of the pleasure of reading this kind of story is that we get to sift pattern from noise along with the protagonist . I haven't read enough murder mysteries or detective stories to really be able to speak with expertise here, but thinking this way definitely allows my list below to expand to include figures like Jake Gittes from Chinatown or Case from Neuromancer (a loosely-disguised noir); it also makes Rorschach (from Watchmen) stand out more clearly as Ozymandias' mirrored reverse.

    In looking over my list some more, I notice that almost all these books presuppose the existence of conspiracies and dangerous secrets. Does trying to fit all the world's complexity into the totalizing structure of a novel always necessitate including a conspiracy to help make things fit? William Burroughs writes "The paranoid is the person in possession of all the facts," but I'm not sure I agree: I might argue that paranoia grows from the refusal to accept a fundamental state of occlusion and ignorance. When faced with a fucked-up world, it's sometimes easier to blame the Jews than to try to sift through the innumerable details of What Really Happened. (Thom Andersen's great documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself criticizes conspiracy films like Chinatown or L.A. Confidential for obscuring the real history of Los Angeles; I've written on this before, here.)

    More on a state of perpetual occlusion next time. Stay tuned!


    Thursday, October 13, 2005
    10:08 AM


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