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Raymond Chandler - Farewell, My Lovely
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blackberrycottage



Joined: 23 Nov 2008
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Location: Barnsley Yorkshire

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:30 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Evie, there is a further Penguin Classic with The Lady in the Lake, The High Window and The Little Sister. Much as I would have liked to listen to them on Radio 4, I think they would have needed too much attention and i would have fallen asleep.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

E/V, your soft-boiled egg theory may very well hold water. I wonder if it is mentioned in any of the other books.

I also have that Penguin omnibus edition, though in a second-hand copy abandoned by a student. It contains pencil annotations throughout the first two books, which have been most enlightening. Like having someone to hold your hand and point things out along the way that otherwise you would not have noticed. A guided tour of Chandler.

I'm really looking forward to the discussion of this on the radio today - I just hope the guests pass muster.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 11:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love books with other people's annotations in them!  It seems a shame when some secondhand booksellers won't accept them.  

The soft-boiled egg thing just made me smile, I am probably being fanciful - it's just that it is mentioned several times that he has these for breakfast!  Must look out for them in other books...

Blackberrycottage, I will get hold of the other volume too - thanks for that.


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Marita



Joined: 21 Nov 2008
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Location: Flanders, Belgium

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am pleased that you choose Farewell, my Lovely for us to read, Chibiabos. It was the first time ever I read a novel by Raymond Chandler. First thing I did was check the catalogue of our library to see what else they had. So, yes, I too enjoyed it very much.

Admittedly it wasn’t always easy with all the slang words and expressions. I didn’t understand them all completely but I could guess at the possible meaning of the most obscure ones. I read the book through twice and this helped.

Something that struck me from the first was the racist language used.
In the first two chapters Moose Malloy uses three different words to say there are now coloured people in Florian’s:

Quote:
• ‘Smokes in here, heh? Tie that for me, pal’
• ‘A dinge,’ he said. ‘I just thrown him out. You seen me throw him out?’
• ‘Shine box,’ he said angrily under his breath.

Nulty’s comment when he gets the case:
Quote:
• ‘Shines. Another shine killing’

And on casino boat there is an Italian guard
Quote:
• … a short dirty wop …

Raymond Chandler confronts us with this easy use of racist remarks but Marlowe treats the coloured characters (the barman, the hotel clerk) with respect. And in Marlowe’s reaction when he hears that Nulty has been taken of the case but nobody else got it
Quote:
• ‘Well, all he did was kill a negro,’ I said. ‘I guess that’s only a misdemeanour.’

he uses a neutral word. I wonder if Marlowe is disgusted with the way the police deal with this murder.
Would an author today writing a new Marlowe story, set in the same time, be able to use this kind of language? Or would it have been made politically correct?

Velma’s end where she dies far away from home reminded me of lady Deadlock in Bleak House, going to the slums of London to die there unknown, so as not to bring shame on her husband’s name. Marlowe thinks that is what Velma did, knowing that a trial would be hardest on her husband, the one man who gave her a break, an old man who had loved ‘not wisely, but too well’.

I loved the writing, the witticisms and the poetic descriptions. As Evie says it makes Marlowe a compelling character. It made me wonder if he really is as hard as he makes out to be, or whether it is an act; a cover for his real character to help him survive in his profession.

Marlowe/Chandler can change the mood with one sentence like here were Marlowe has told Anne Riordan of his adventure with the psychic and the dope clinic.
Quote:
• She came back with the glass and her fingers cold from holding the cold glass touched mine and I held them for a moment and then let them go slowly as you let go of a dream when you wake with the sun in your face and you have been in an enchanted valley.

It is full of sadness and longing for something Marlowe thinks cannot be.

Or this one where he’s waiting in a hotel room. Instead of just saying that he waited until it was dark and then left, we do the waiting with him, following the thoughts that go through his mind while he’s lying in the increasing darkness. It gives a feeling of the slowly passing time.
Quote:
• It got darker. I thought; and thought in my mind moved with a kind of sluggish stealthiness, as if it was being watched by bitter and sadistic eyes. I thought of dead eyes looking at a moonless sky, with black blood at the corners of the mouths beneath them. I thought of nasty old women beaten to death against the posts of their dirty beds. I thought of a man with bright blond hair who was afraid and didn’t quite know what he was afraid of, who was sensitive enough to know that something was wrong, and too vain or too dull to guess what it was that was wrong. I thought of beautiful rich women who could be had. I thought of nice slim curious girls who lived alone and could be had too, in a different way. I thought of cops, tough cops that could be greased and yet were not by any means all bad, like Hemingway. Fat prosperous cops with Chamber of Commerce voices, like Chief Wax. Slim, smart and deadly cops like Randall, who for all their smartness and deadliness were not free to do a clean  job in a clean way. I thought of sour old goats like Nulty who had given up trying. I thought of Indians and psychics and dope doctors.
I thought of lots of things. It got darker. The glare of the red neon sign spread farther and farther across the ceiling. I sat up on the bed and put my feet on the floor and rubbed the back of my neck.


The first person narrative shows us a duality in Marlowe’s character (hard-boiled private dick and softy) that a third person narrative couldn’t do so easily. I even wonder if a film can do full justice to this.

To end here are a few lines I rather liked:
Quote:
• It was a nice face, a face you get to like. Pretty, but not so pretty that you would have to wear brass knuckles every time you took it out.
• The house itself was not so much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace, rather grey for California , and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler Building.
• You can buy a town this size all complete, with the original box and tissue paper.
• A world as harmless as a sleeping cat
• I didn’t feel very well, but I didn’t feel as sick as I ought to, not as sick as I would feel if I had a salaried job. My head hurt and felt large and hot and my tongue was dry and had gravel on it and my throat was stiff and my jaw was not untender. But I had had worse mornings.
It was a grey morning with high fog, not yet warm but likely to be. I heaved up off the bed and rubbed the pit of my stomach where it was sore from vomiting. My left foot felt fine. It didn’t have an ache in it. So I had to kick the corner of the bed.
• The second floor was lighter and cleaner, but that didn’t mean that it was clean and light.
• A male cutie with henna’d heir drooped at a bungalow grand piano and tickled the keys lasciviously and sang Stairway to the Stars in a voice with half the steps missing.
• The eighty-five cent dinner tasted like a discarded mail bag and was served by a waiter who looked as if he would slug me for a quarter, cut my throat for six bits, and bury me at sea in a barrel of concrete for a dollar and a half, plus sales tax.


Marita


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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wonderful post, Marita - glad to have read it before dashing off to catch the bus to work - will reply in more detail later. I think we all had to work out some of the slang expressions!  And your comment about whether some of the language would be acceptable today, in a novel written now but set in that period, is a good one, as I don't think it would pass the editor's pen.  But part of the power of it is, as you say, that is shows us something about Marlowe - the comment about the misdemeanour, which is sarcastic, shows Marlowe's disregard for the colour of the victim.

Also love your comments about Velma - she is a killer, but a tragic figure, and one whom Marlowe understands.  That's one of his strengths - he really understands people.

Anyway, more later - and must dig out some of my own favourite quotes - so many to choose from!  Those mood changes are fabulous, aren't they.


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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
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Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They must have been discussing this very book on A Good Read this afternoon -I came in partway through - as they also quoted this line!

'The house itself was not so much. It was smaller than Buckingham Palace, rather grey for California , and probably had fewer windows than the Chrysler Building.'

I thought it was something pretentious they were talking about but now it all makes sense. Love Chandler but have not revisited him for years. I think I was rather partial to The Lady In the Lake, but have them all somewhere still (I seriously hope that they survived the book culls...must look.)


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Evie
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 18, 2011 7:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I loved that line about the house!  Again, so typical.  As Chibiabos said before, he must be one of the most quotable of authors!  There are delicious lines on every page.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Michael Dobbs didn't get it, did he...ah well.  Too focused on the plot!

Here are a couple of the mood change sentences that Marita referred to, that I particularly liked:

'This was the time to leave, to go far away.  So I pushed the door open and quietly stepped in.'

'After a while I felt a little better, but very little. I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country.  What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.  I put them on and went out of the room.'


I love his use of very short sentences and understated narrative:

'The big man took me by the arm and we went over to the little elevator.  It came up.  We got into it.'


That is the ending of a chapter.  As with Wodehouse, the very brilliance of the sentences makes you smile in itself - just wonderful.  

With all this fuss over the Booker prize, I have to say that it seems to me that very little attention is paid to the actual writing these days, by authors or by judges of prizes, and I understand the feeling among some to celebrate artistry - it does seem to rank low in people's minds.  Not always, of course, but few take as much care with their writing as this, and perhaps fewer still consider the idea of creating a work of art - it's all about entertainment - whether we enjoy something or not.  

That is important too, of course - we need books to entertain us - but we also need books that use language skilfully and imaginatively and artistically - human creativity needs to be pushed to the heights.  I have stopped following Susan Hill on Twitter because she makes such disappointingly fatuous comments about such things!


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TheRejectAmidHair



Joined: 19 Nov 2008
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Location: Staines, Middlesex

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don’t want to sidetrack this discussion away from Chandler – and perhaps we should start a new thread on this – but the issue raised by Evie above about art and entertainment seems a very important one, and one that I have been pondering on and off for some time now. Chandler is an example of a writer whose works are both entertaining, and also of artistic merit; but all too often, all literature is viewed purely from the perspective of how well in entertains. And that strikes me as wrong-headed.

Of course, many say that anything we like reading is by definition entertaining, as if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be reading it. But that is a question of definition. When I read something such as []Life and Fate[/i], say, which depicts the carnage at Stalingrad, and even follows a group of Jewish people into the gas chambers, can we really call that “entertainment”?  Yes, I read it because of the great truths it reveals about humanity, because of the artistry of the depiction; but if, for those reasons, it is said that Life and Fate is entertaining, then, I’d argue, we’re stretching the definition of “entertainment” to such an extent that it ceases to be a particularly useful word.

In short, we must acknowledge a distinction between art and entertainment. The distinction is not easy, as there are examples (as with Chandler) where the work falls easily into both categories. There are also examples of works written purely to entertain, but in which the level of craftsmanship is so high, that the term “artistry” is not misapplied. All this is true. But we must, I think, allow art not to be entertaining. And if we do so, simple statements such as “I enjoyed it” or “I didn’t enjoy it” need, at the very least, to be qualified, because enjoyment in the sense of “entertainment” is not always required to appreciate a book as a work of art.

Anyway – enough of this. (If we want to discuss this further, I suggest starting a new thread and leaving this one to discussion of Chandler.)

I used to have a set of old Penguin paperbacks of Chandler’s novels that I picked up very cheaply back in my student days. But my wife is a huge Chandler fan, and one of my presents to her was a complete Folio Society set of all seven Philip Marlowe novels. And a few years ago, I presented her for Christmas the Everyman Library collection of Chandler’s short fiction. That was a mistake: I had to do all the housework for the next few days! On the plus side, my wife did finish the entire book by New Year!



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Green Jay



Joined: 13 Jan 2009
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Location: West Sussex

PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evie wrote:
That is important too, of course - we need books to entertain us - but we also need books that use language skilfully and imaginatively and artistically - human creativity needs to be pushed to the heights.  I have stopped following Susan Hill on Twitter because she makes such disappointingly fatuous comments about such things!


Oh dear, and I've just said nice things about her on the crime thread.  Laughing Perhaps yet another reason why I don't bother with twitter and why it is probably not such a useful medium, being so instant and responsive, too instant and too responsive to silly stuff. I'm sure many twitterers are full of regrets. But I don't mean to steer this discussion away in yet another direction.



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