Ben Hecht's Hard-Boiled Decadence: The Flaneur as Reporter
Edinburgh University Press
Reason for embargo
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by the publisher
This essay illustrates how Ben Hecht’s short stories in The Little Review and the Chicago Daily News crucially expand the scope of burgeoning research into post-Wildean, American Decadence. These works (written between 1915 and 1921) have been over-shadowed by Hecht’s later Hollywood career to the point where they have all-but eluded scholarly commentary. However, attention to these vignettes of sensual experience in downtown Chicago reveals that they develop Decadence in a unique direction, which fuses the backstreet Decadence of Arthur Machen and Arthur Symons with the pulp fiction published by Hecht’s mentor, H. L. Mencken, in The Black Mask. The result, I argue, is that Hecht’s short stories create a hard-boiled Decadence: a new form which uses Decadent language to explore the continuity of Decadent sensuality in the unlikely setting downtown Chicago, at the same time as it uses the emerging tropes of hard-boiled fiction to define the impediments to having a Decadent sensibility in such circumstances.
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