hveen the ribs! Intellectualism—the cultrnof ignorant indignation—amounts to thernseeking of sainthood by revolting againstrna societ)’ that is, supposedly, ignorant andrnclueless. For Wolfe, however, the self-appointedrnsaints have missed the real point:rnHow could they not notice and give creditrnto America’s astounding successes —rnthe innovation, the democratic spirit, thernfreedom, the unimaginable affluence ofrnthe common people?rnHilaire Belloc, who hated dons (hernlost out on an appointment at Oxford),rnmaintained that they all had somethingrnwrong with them —a stutter, a limp, therninabilitv to chat up a mere slip of a girl.rnThat is not entirely true anymore, thanksrnto the American fehshization of educationrnand to Sputnik, which resulted inrnthe pouring of billions of dollars intorn”higher” education, drawing to academiarnan infestation of well-groomed parasitesrnfarworse than those fumbling dons—conrnartists, rakes, bureaucrats, politicians.rnJames Hynes’ The Lecturer’s Talernplunges delightfully into that world, viarnthe English facult)’ of the fictional (butrnrepresentative) Midwestern Universit)’ ofrnMinnesota. The Lecturer is a naive academicrnwhose career is going down thernplumbing system because he really lovesrnand believes in literature and wants torninrpart his knowledge to the young.rnIn the course of a plot that includes supernaturalrnelements reminiscent of C.S.rnLewis’s fiction, Hynes lays bare, withrnonly slightly heightened caricature, allrnof the successful types in present-dayrninstitutions of “higher” education, wherernreputation bears not the slightest relationshiprnto either scholarship or the wellbeingrnof students, much less the transmissionrnof Western civilization. Theserncharacters are onlv .slightly heightened byrncaricature: After all, we live in a countn,-rnwhere Stanley Fish is paid more than arnquarter-million dollars a year as a professorrnof literature to teach that literature hasrnno meaning.rnEvelyn Waugh once wrote that hisrnnovels could not properly be described asrnsatires because satire involves pointingrnout the gap between standards and behavior,rnand he was writing about peoplernwho had no standards. By Waugh’s rule,rnwe can’t call The Lecturer’s Tale a satire.rnBesides, it’s hard to satirize what is alreadyrnits own parody. Yes, it really is thatrnbad. As the Australians say: “Too true.”rnClyde Wilson has been proudly scribblingrnfor Chronicles for two decades now.rnI Am NotrnAshamed Eitherrnby J.O. TaternDeath on the Cheap:rnThe Lost B Movies of Film Noirrnh}’ Arthur LyonsrnCambridge: Da Capo Press;rn212pp.,$l7.50rnEver since the cineaste Nino Frankrnfirst used the term in France inrn1946 (he never said he iirvented it), therernhas been considerable controversy aboutrnthe meaning of “/i’/m noir” and various attemptsrnto define it, some more or less authoritative.rnThe essential argumentsrnhave been usefully collected in Silverrnand Ursini’s Film Noir Reader (19%).rnBecause of the collaborative nature ofrnfilm, there have been varied emphases:rngraphic, obviously; sociological and political,rnhaving to do with World War II, thernreturn of the GIs, crime and corruption,rnand even the McCarth}- episode; literaryrndefinitions, acknowledging such writersrnas Hemingway, Hammett, Chandler,rnMcCoy, Woolrich, Goodis, and so on;rneven an immigrationist perspective, havingrnto do with German and other artistsrnwho brought certain st)’listic preoccupationsrnwith them. These arguments arernconcerned with the period of 1941-58 —rnor 1939-59, as has been argued —andrnleave open subsequent developmentsrnsuch as “neo-noir” in the 70’s, 80’s, andrn90’s. Are these last (such as Chinatown,rnFarewell, My Lovely, Reser’oir Dogs, ThernUsual Suspects, and Twilight) homages,rnpastiches, recreations, or what? If noir isrna cycle confined to an idenhfiable period,rnhow can there be “neo-noir”?rnArthur Lyons, in his interesting andrnflawed little book Death on the Cheap:rnThe Lost B Movie of Film Noir, hasrnprovocatively questioned the standingrndefinitions oi film noir. Lyons has dismissedrnthe usual guff, displaying contemptrnfor the usual language of film criticism,rnand he can’t be faulted for that.rnToo much of the language of film crihcismrnis opaque or off-putting or pretentious,rnphony, and wrong. There comes arnpoint when cultic academicism goes toornfar. Lyons shows that there also comes arnpoint when it doesn’t go far enough.rnThe best part of his book is his dismissalrnof previous definitions. He apparentlyrnthinks that noirs are just juiced-up Brnmovies. Lyons emphasizes economics inrnthe definihon of noir and neo-nofr, suggestingrnthat such films have more to dornwith escape, entertainment, and vicariousrnthrills than with a national mentalrndysfunction. And he goes further, quotingrnGerald Petievich: “Stor)’ and story onlyrndefines film noir. Director tastes andrntechniques have nothing to do with thernarchet}’pe noir tale.” Lyons, insisting onrnthemahcs—alienation, social corruption,rnobsession, fatalism, and sexual perversityrn—sees film noir as nothing more than arnfaddish way of packaging the crime film.rn”Film noir” is for him a back-projectionrnby intellectuals: He suggests that nobodyrnwho made film noirs in the first cyclernknew they were making them, thoughrnthe very phenomenon suggests that thernopposite is true. Quoting clueless actorsrndoesn’t prove anything.rnBut Lyons does not sustain his argumentrnabout “story.” He invests only 66rnpages of exposition in the literary backgroundrnand the histor)’ and economics ofrnthe B film before devoting nearly a hundredrnpages to a “filmography”—an alphabetizedrnlist of forgotten flicks that his subtitlernimplies are essential to film noir.rnThis filmography (and its glossy photos)rnwill, no doubt, sell his book; but it is notrnvitally related to his argument, and itrneven contradicts it. Having insisted onrn”story,” he refers again and again to style,rnnoted cinematographers, and connectionsrnto other fdtn noirs, implying an acknowledgmentrnof style. Furthermore,rnmany (if not most) of the films he glossesrnare negligible, or just plain bad—causingrnhim to veer into vulgarity and fanzinetypernirrelevancies, reciting the campyrnstuff about Sonny Tufts (a favorite sneertargetrnof Johnny Carson), and telling usrnwho Von Stroheim was shacking up withrnwhen he made The Mask of Diijonrn(1946), and how Liz Renay, who played arngangster’s moll {Date with Death, 1959)rnreally was one (Mickey Cohen’s), andrnhow Tom Conway died destitute, andrnhow Barbara Payton [Bad Blonde, 1953)rnwas arrested for prostitution, drunkenness,rnand writing bad checks, but was notrnarrested for writing her autobiography, /rnAm Not Ashamed. None of this stuff mattersrnas far as the viewing experience goes,rnand even there it is rather deflating tornread, as in his discussion of Key Witnessrn(1947): “Dumbly overwritten and onlyrnmarginally acted, this forgettable programmerrnhas appropriately pretty muchrnMAY 2001/29rnrnrn