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Raymond Chandler - Farewell, My Lovely
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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 11:57 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

I haven't had time to respond to posts recently and so I'm behind, but I'll try and catch up a bit now.

Thank you very much for your contributions, Himadri and Marita. Himadri, you're quite right to point out that plot is relegated in favour of e.g. characterisation. Look at the characterisation of even the minor characters - Mrs Florian and her neighbour, for example, who can't be in the story for more than a few pages but who leap off the page because of the small, telling details Chandler illuminates to bring them to life (E/V's example of the mouth as smooth as a prune!). I can't help admiring this economy of description. His prose is quite economical too in terms of not outstaying its welcome (if you get my meaning), but it's not always stripped down and staccato in the manner of 'It came up. We got into it.' ... His descriptions of place are often in longer, more lyrical clauses, perhaps slightly abandoning the voice of Marlowe? though I would never suggest this was an accident. Chandler is clearly a writer in absolute control of his material, adapting his prose as the situation requires.

We haven't really discussed the evocation of place, but it was pointed out by Harriett Gilbert in her introduction to the book on yesterday's programme (I haven't heard the whole thing yet - I've reached the point where Dobbs is about to raise his objections). I've forgotten, I confess, which bits take place where exactly (or even if they all take place in LA and its suburbs, or if perhaps some scenes occur further out of the city), and if I'd paid attention a bit better I would be able to say something more interesting, but I think the impression of Los Angeles that is communicated is one of a city as an organism (like Dickens' London, perhaps? at least in the way that apparently unrelated people connect) with an enormous amount of variation, from the poor dwellings of Jessie Florian and her neighbour to the luxury residences of Lindsay Marriott and Jules Amthor.

I think I've got some more to write, but will have to come back to it later. E/V, did you work out whether this was the Chandler you'd read before?

I was going to quote the bit about Buckingham Palace and the Chrysler Building, but Marita beat me to it (and so did Rick Stein on the programme yesterday!). But in its place, here is a passage I noted as being particularly entertaining, the introduction of Marriott.

I walked back through the arch and started up the steps. It was a nice
walk if you liked grunting. There were two hundred and eighty steps up to
Cabrillo Street. They were drifted over with windblown sand and the
handrail was as cold and wet as a toad’s belly.

When I reached the top the sparkle had gone from the water and a
seagull with a broken trailing leg was twisting against the offsea breeze. I
sat down on the damp cold top step and shook the sand out of my shoes
and waited for my pulse to come down into the low hundreds. When I was
breathing more or less normally again I shook my shirt loose from my
back and went along to the lighted house which was the only one within
yelling distance of the steps.

It was a nice little house with a salt-tarnished spiral of staircase going up
to the front door and an imitation coachlamp for a porchlight. The garage
was underneath and to one side. Its door was lifted up and rolled back
and the light of the porchlamp shone obliquely on a huge black battleship
of a car with chromium trimmings, a coyote tail tied to the Winged Victory
on the radiator cap and engraved initials where the emblem should be.
The car had a right-hand drive and looked as if had cost more than the
house.

I went up the spiral steps, looked for a bell, and used a knocker in the
shape of a tiger’s head. Its clatter was swallowed in the early evening
fog. I heard no steps in the house. My damp shirt felt like an icepack on
my back. The door opened silently, and I was looking at a tall blond man
in a white flannel suit with a violet satin scarf around his neck.

There was a cornflower in the lapel of his white coat and his pale blue
eyes looked faded out by comparison. The violet scarf was loose enough
to show that he wore no tie and that he had a thick, soft brown neck, like
the neck of a strong woman. His features were a little on the heavy side,
but handsome, he had an inch more of height than I had, which made
him six feet one. His blond hair was arranged, by art or nature, in three
precise blond ledges which reminded me of steps, so that I didn’t like
them. I wouldn’t have liked them anyway. Apart from all this he had the
general appearance of a lad who would wear a white flannel suit with a
violet scarf around his neck and a cornflower in his lapel.


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Chibiabos83
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 6:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dobbs didn't really get it, did he? I don't mean to be sniffy about him as a writer (or about plot-driven novels in general) when I haven't read his books, but I imagine plot takes prominence in his thoughts when he writes a novel. Chandler is such a striking prose stylist that he hardly has to worry much about plot. (I did once consider reading House of Cards on the basis of having loved the TV series, but I believe the books are generally considered to be not quite as good - but then any work of art that doesn't feature Ian Richardson must automatically be at some sort of disadvantage.)

I didn't agree with him either in his assessment of Marlowe's character. Yes, we don't see a great deal of Marlowe in some ways, but that hardly means he's underwritten. Perhaps it might be argued that Marlowe presents the reader with a version of himself, partially hidden behind a smokescreen. He is far from being a blank canvas, he just gives that impression to other people.


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Evie
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I completely disagreed with that point about Marlowe's character - that for me is one of the clever things about the writing, is that Marlowe's character is so convincing, despite the fact that we only see everything through his eyes.  We get insights - such as the one Marita mentioned, about his respect for the black community amidst all the racist attitudes - that are often subtly presented and revealed; Chandler doesn't need to describe or make obvious his characterisation, it happens through the richness of the writing.

Michael Dobbs' choice of book perhaps told us something about his literary interests - Harriett Gilbert's response was wonderful.  I don't mean that everyone should love Chandler, of course, but the comments he made seemed very superficial, or rather, based on a very superficial reading of the book.


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I didn't hear the programme, but surely Marlowe is very far from being "undercharacterised". We get to know Marlowe's character in quite a bit of detail, from his reactions to people and events.



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Marita



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PostPosted: Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just listened to the A Good Read programme –at least the part about Chandler – and was surprised about what they said about Marlowe and the young woman, Anne. They seemed to think it was a flaw that there wasn’t a relationship between the two and claimed you didn’t know anything about Marlowe’s private life.
I think it is clear that Marlowe is interested in Anne but keeps her at a distance. He doesn’t want to involve her in his life. He wants to keep her away from his job and the danger this could entail. Marlowe chooses to be a loner with a small apartment and an empty office but when he’s with Anne he shows that he longs for a more normal life.

Marita


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marita wrote:
I just listened to the A Good Read programme –at least the part about Chandler – and was surprised about what they said about Marlowe and the young woman, Anne. They seemed to think it was a flaw that there wasn’t a relationship between the two and claimed you didn’t know anything about Marlowe’s private life.
I think it is clear that Marlowe is interested in Anne but keeps her at a distance. He doesn’t want to involve her in his life. He wants to keep her away from his job and the danger this could entail. Marlowe chooses to be a loner with a small apartment and an empty office but when he’s with Anne he shows that he longs for a more normal life.

Marita


Precisely. Marlowe doesn't have a private life, as such. The world he has to deal with on a daily basis is vicious and corrupt, and Marlowe's concern is to be able to go through all that without becoming corrupted himself. So in his out-of-work hours, he keeps himself to himself. This is a running theme in all the Marlowe novels, and comes to the forefront in The Long Goodbye, in which Marlowe dissevers that a person he has become friendly with, and whom he likes, has made concessions to the corruption around him. The theme of a person of integrity refusing to compromise, and hence being lonely and isolated because, can easily be traced back to other works - eg Moličre's Le Misanthrope.



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Evie
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 8:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love the way Chandler depicts the relationship between Marlowe and Anne - the attraction on both sides made so clear without any overt expression of it.  Both know they are attracted to each other, both know it isn't going to work.  The scene where he asks for more whisky and she suggests he might like to try water once in a while is masterly.


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Caro



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 9:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A little interruption - sorry - just to say how much I am enjoying this thread.  I have never had any desire to read Chandler - hard-boiled detectives don't really appeal - but this is making me reconsider a lot.  I don't always read these group read threads, especially if I have little knowledge of the books, but I am pleased I checked out this one.

Thanks.  Caro.


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Marita



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Caro, I’m glad you enjoy it. I think that’s the point of A Good Read, to get people interested in a book they hadn’t considered before.

Himadri, don’t you think with Anne it is also because he doesn’t want to endanger a person he cares for? Of course being a loner, nobody can threaten his loved-ones and thus blackmail him into doing something that’s against his principles.

Evie, there is another bit shortly after t his one when Anne wants Marlowe to stay and he want to go. They argue until Anne storms out of the room to get her car. Marlowe gets ready to go.

Quote:
• I picked my hat out of a chair and switched off a couple of lamps and saw that the French door had a Yale lock. I looked back a moment before I closed the door. It was a nice room. It would be a nice room to wear slippers in.


Again the action is slowed down totally. You can feel the sadness and longing for a normal family life, what Marlowe called earlier ‘an enchanted valley’.

Marita


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TheRejectAmidHair



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PostPosted: Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Marita wrote:
Himadri, don’t you think with Anne it is also because he doesn’t want to endanger a person he cares for? Of course being a loner, nobody can threaten his loved-ones and thus blackmail him into doing something that’s against his principles.

[/quote]

Oh yes, I agree fully.

I don't think anyone can accuse Chandler of being even remotely mawkish, but when you read between the lines, there is, as you note, a tremendous sadness to it. Marlowe tries to keep himself clean despite inhabiting a filthy world, and he does not wish to drag someone such as Anne into that world - for her own sake. And what is sad is that even while he is rejecting closeness of human contact, he longs for it. That line you quote about it "being a nice room to wear slippers in" is just perfect, isn't it? It's not overdone: indeed, one might miss it if one weren't reading carefully. But Marlowe himsef knows what it is he is missing.

What a wonderful writer Chandler was!




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