book review Miami Noir: the timing of unfelt smiles, by john dufresne (sunny isles)

Miami Noir – Google Books.

via Miami Noir – Google Books.

the “noir” books started, I guess, with Brooklyn Noir – you know, “noir” stories set locally, written by local writers. so, they are anthologies, and as such, have their ups and downs.

I thought “the timing of unfelt smiles” by john dufresne was a gem, from a philosophical point of view (could have been written better, but a great deal of fiction these days is “one-legged” – just happy to be ambulant at all!). You can read this entire story at google.books.

the “detective role” in this one as played by a character who has a special cognitive ability.  this interests me, aside from its development as an element in the story (has everything to do with the title).  he is desribed as an “intuitionist”, says he “read(s) faces and furniture”, can “look at a person, at his expressions, his gestures,his clothing, his home, and his possessions, and I can tell you what he’s thinking.”   the author even psuedo-cites Dr. Cabrera from University of Miami’s Cognitive Thinking Lab.

well, they probably wouldn’t call the lab “Cognitive Thinking”, would they.  There is The Center for Cognitive Neurosciences at UM, however, which is also a little dumb, in the same way, isn’t it?  anyway, I’m a charter patient….

in the end, it’s his ability to read the expressions (which fails him) that provides us with the climax to the story.  there are  indeed some interesting observations about how people physically plot a fairly complete personal geometry.  but I’m reading a lot into this..

“She had a dimple on her right cheek, like she was used to smiling out of one side of her face. This ingrained unevenness suggested a lifetime of feigned emotion.”

I also like this:

“You don’t think he’s sincere?”

“I think sincerity is his honesty.”

I though about that a lot – drawing a distinction between how a person can be completely committed to his or her own values, even though those values were completely contrived – had no basis in an “honest” assessment of oneself or of the worlds around.”  if that’s what he meant…. he talks about it at the end…

“people who feel that the world has let them down, who can’t imagine existence without their own presence. Dishonest people.”

don’t know if I follow this completely.  but I do believe that  illogic flourishes in modern life, enabled by humans rather advanced cognitive ability to craft discrete worlds of their own, which are impenetrable by an accidental intrusion of “truth” or “fact.”  we’ve gotten smart enough to build the best mouse trap – one invented by the mouse himself!

I also liked this romantic idea:

“You can always tell a happy marriage.  People in love begin to acquire each others traits, each others styles , – thye being to look and act alike.  They want to please. They admire each other and, naturally enough, want to be come what they esteem and cherish.”


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