Cornell Woolrich Quotes

Quotes tagged as "cornell-woolrich" Showing 1-12 of 12
Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“The viewpoint character in each story is usually someone trapped in a living nightmare, but this doesn't guarantee that we and the protagonist are at one. In fact Woolrich often makes us pull away from the person at the center of the storm, splitting our reaction in two, stripping his protagonist of moral authority, denying us the luxury of unequivocal identification, drawing characters so psychologically warped and sometimes so despicable that a part of us wants to see them suffer. Woolrich also denies us the luxury of total disidentification with all sorts of sociopaths, especially those who wear badges. His Noir Cop tales are crammed with acts of police sadism, casually committed or at least endorsed by the detective protagonist. These monstrosities are explicitly condemned almost never and the moral outrage we feel has no internal support in the stories except the objective horror of what is shown, so that one might almost believe that a part of Woolrich wants us to enjoy the spectacles. If so, it's yet another instance of how his most powerful novels and stories are divided against themselves so as to evoke in us a divided response that mirrors his own self-division.

("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Barry N. Malzberg
“He began as a minor imitator of Fitzgerald, wrote a novel in the late twenties which won a prize, became dissatisfied with his work, stopped writing for a period of years. When he came back it was to BLACK MASK and the other detective magazines with a curious and terrible fiction which had never been seen before in the genre markets; Hart Crane and certainly Hemingway were writing of people on the edge of their emotions and their possibility but the genre mystery markets were filled with characters whose pain was circumstantial, whose resolution was through action; Woolrich's gallery was of those so damaged that their lives could only be seen as vast anticlimax to central and terrible events which had occurred long before the incidents of the story. Hammett and his great disciple, Chandler, had verged toward this more than a little, there is no minimizing the depth of their contribution to the mystery and to literature but Hammett and Chandler were still working within the devices of their category: detectives confronted problems and solved (or more commonly failed to solve) them, evil was generalized but had at least specific manifestations: Woolrich went far out on the edge. His characters killed, were killed, witnessed murder, attempted to solve it but the events were peripheral to the central circumstances. What I am trying to say, perhaps, is that Hammett and Chandler wrote of death but the novels and short stories of Woolrich *were* death. In all of its delicacy and grace, its fragile beauty as well as its finality.

Most of his plots made no objective sense. Woolrich was writing at the cutting edge of his time. Twenty years later his vision would attract a Truffaut whose own influences had been the philosophy of Sartre, the French nouvelle vague, the central conception that nothing really mattered. At all. But the suffering. Ah, that mattered; that mattered quite a bit.”
Barry N. Malzberg, The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“But suspense presupposes uncertainty. No matter how nightmarish the situation, real suspense is impossible when we know in advance that the protagonist will prevail (as we would if Woolrich had used series characters) or will be destroyed. This is why, despite his congenital pessimism, Woolrich manages any number of times to squeeze out an upbeat resolution. Precisely because we can never know whether a particular novel or story will be light or dark, allegre or noir, his work remains hauntingly suspenseful.

("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Barry N. Malzberg
“Inevitably, his vision verged toward the fantastic; he published a scattering of stories - most included in this volume - which appeared to conform to that genre at least to the degree that the fuller part of his vision could be seen as "mysteries." For Woolrich it all was fantastic; the clock in the tower, hand in the glove, out of control vehicle, errant gunshot which destroyed; whether destructive coincidence was masked in the "naturalistic" or the "incredible" was all pretty much the same to him. RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK, THE BRIDE WORE BLACK, NIGHTMARE are all great swollen dreams, turgid constructions of the night, obsession and grotesque outcome; to turn from these to the "fantastic" was not to turn at all. The work, as is usually the case with a major writer was perfectly formed, perfectly consistent, the vision leached into every area and pulled the book together. "Jane Brown's Body" is a suspense story. THE BRIDE WORE BLACK is science fiction. PHANTOM LADY is a gothic. RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK was a bildungsroman. It does not matter.”
Barry N. Malzberg, The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“This may not be art as art commonly goes; the lack of discipline, of control, would seem to rule it out of that category. And yet Woolrich's lack of control over emotions is a crucial element in his work, not only because it intensifies the fragility and momentariness of love but also because it tears away the comfortable belief, evident in some of the greatest works of the human imagination such as Oedipus Rex, that nobility in the face of nothingness is possible. And if Woolrich's work is not art as commonly understood, there is an art beyond art, whose form is not the novel or story but the scream; and of this art Woolrich is beyond doubt a master. ("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins Jr.

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“Woolrich had a genius for creating types of story perfectly consonant with his world: the noir cop story, the clock race story, the waking nightmare, the oscillation thriller, the headlong through the night story, the annihilation story, the last hours story. These situations, and variations on them, and others like them, are paradigms of our position in the world as Woolrich sees it. His mastery of suspense, his genius (like that of his spiritual brother Alfred Hitchcock) for keeping us on the edge of our seats and gasping with fright, stems not only from the nightmarish situations he conjured up but from his prose, which is compulsively readable, cinematically vivid, high-strung almost to the point of hysteria, forcing us into the skins of the hunted and doomed where we live their agonies and die with them a thousand small deaths.”
Francis M. Nevins, Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“In Woolrich's crime fiction there is a gradual development from pulp to noir. The earlier a story, the more likely it stresses pulp elements: one-dimensional macho protagonists, preposterous methods of murder, hordes of cardboard gangsters, dialogue full of whiny insults, blistering fast action. But even in some of his earliest crime stories one finds aspects of noir, and over time the stream works itself pure.

In mature Woolrich the world is an incomprehensible place where beams happen to fall, and are predestined to fall, and are toppled over by malevolent powers; a world ruled by chance, fate and God the malign thug. But the everyday life he portrays is just as terrifying and treacherous. The dominant economic reality is the Depression, which for Woolrich usually means a frightened little guy in a rundown apartment with a hungry wife and children, no money, no job, and desperation eating him like a cancer. The dominant political reality is a police force made up of a few decent cops and a horde of sociopaths licensed to torture and kill, whose outrages are casually accepted by all concerned, not least by the victims. The prevailing emotional states are loneliness and fear. Events take place in darkness, menace breathes out of every corner of the night, the bleak cityscape comes alive on the page and in our hearts.

("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“Like the playwrights of the Absurd, Woolrich recognized that a senseless story best mirrors a senseless existence.”
Francis M. Nevins Jr., The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“Long before the Theater of the Absurd, Woolrich discovered that an incomprehensible universe is best reflected in an incomprehensible story.

("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“The hallmarks of the noir style are fear, guilt and loneliness, breakdown and despair, sexual obsession and social corruption, a sense that the world is controlled by, malignant forces preying on us, a rejection of happy endings and a preference for resolutions heavy with doom, but always redeemed by a breathtakingly vivid poetry of word (if the work was a novel or story) or image (if it was a movie). ("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Darkness At Dawn

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“His most characteristic detective stories end with the realization that no rational account of events is possible, and his suspense stories tend to close with terror not dissipated but omnipresent, like God.
("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Darkness At Dawn

Francis M. Nevins Jr.
“All we can do about this nightmare we live in is to create, if we are very lucky, a few islands of love and trust to sustain us and help us forget. But love dies while the lovers go on living, and Woolrich excels at making us watch while relationships corrode. He knew the horrors that both love and lovelessness can breed, yet he created very few irredeemably evil characters; for with whoever loves or needs love, Woolrich identifies, all of that person's dark side notwithstanding.

("Introduction")”
Francis M. Nevins, Darkness At Dawn