Before and After #36:
Raymond Chandler




Vanwall said...

I guess you could say he was a cad that made good in the end, but that would be simplistic - like a lot of charismatics, he couldn't keep his pants on when a willing young woman was in the offing, but he also wasn't the type of guy that flaunted it, either - he was socially straight-jacketed somewhat.

I think his service in the trenches in WWI scarred him for life, and he dealt with it by his occaisional womanizing, but like many others, mostly thru boozing. His escapades later in life with Ted Geisel (Dr. Suess), in nearby La Jolla were and are legendary. A lot of pulp writers had a pint of rye in their coat pockets, it seems like.

Chandler and the other the pulp guys were as much an influence on modern fiction as any of the critcal faves, though. Essentially a shy man, who was obsessed with his mother-figures, much like his contemporary Cornell Woolrich, (altho he kept both legs in the final laps) he was the greatest student of Western American language, and specifcally Los Angeles and its environs, that ever was, IMO. Hammett was a little too slangy sometimes, but Chandler's boozy, dark evocation of American success was perfectly wrought.

A hero of mine, and should be taught in every school. So sad that his executors, such as they were, ignored his wishes and buried him so far from his beloved wife Cissy - I've visited a few times, and the tiny grave marker is a sad reminder of America's casual recognition of its greatest talents.

Tom Sutpen said...

Hear hear. A beautifully rendered tribute. I once got into an argument with someone for taking the position that Chandler was a more effective writer than Henry James (who I also admire, but with deep reservations). I can't think of any writer who could convey an absolute sense of moral twilight with as much concision as he. James? To quote Hemingway (I think): "Polychromatic crap". More often than not i'd srtike out the second word, but the first fits him with justice.

I also think it significant that Chandler, a British subject, embraced this country for all the right reasons, whereas James ran from it for all the wrong ones.

swac said...

I had a journalism professor who recommended Chandler as an example for writing tight, but evocative descriptions. I'd already read most of his novels by that point, but the advice was well-taken.

BTW...anyone ever see The Brasher Doubloon?

Vanwall said...

I was unlucky enough to see "The Brasher Dubloon", and it's nothing to write home about. I swear, half the cast from "Somewhere In The Night", referenced above, was driven straight from those sets to this one's. Nancy Guild was a nice mannikin, and the Black Forest Canned Ham was there. The cast was otherwise way weaker than it required. Chandler plots always were too convoluted to transfer straight to the screen, and of course, the Studios couldn't resist a certain coarsening of the characters, and couldn't leave in the lesbian themes and whatnot that made the psychological motivations work in the book. They did keep some of his snappy dialogue, tho, to their credit, but it's not moody enough for me. The Mike Shayne version, (hang on, IMDb time) "Time to Kill", was at least as good, and maybe better. (all those Shayne movies kinda run together in my head, sorry)