Thursday, November 01, 2007

Major Fan Geekage

I'm going to interrupt this particular series of navel-gazing posts to insert a little non-paid advertisement.

Raymond Chandler is God.

Okay, I've been reading some Chandler lately, as I am working on my story plotting skills and figured that it would be a good idea to take a peek at some of the best. I had previously read a few of his short stories, but had never really delved into his longer works. I am totally blown away.

Chandler has been endlessly imitated, and I have long since gotten tired of the "A dame walked into my office. She had the kind of legs that would stop traffic on the Union Pacific, but her eyes were as cold as the slabs at the county morgue..."

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I can see why people would want to imitate Chandler, in the same way that I can see why people would want to climb Everest or channel Katherine Hepburn, or paint like da Vinci. However, some things can't be copied. Check out this description from The Big Sleep:

I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs. Regan. She was worth a stare. She was trouble. She was stretched out on a modernistic chaise-longue with her slippers off, so I stared at her legs in the sheerest of stockings. They seemed to be arranged to stare at. They were visible to the knee and one of them well beyond. The knees were dimpled, not bony and sharp. The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim with enough melodic line for a tone poem...

Later, they talk:

Her hot black eyes looked mad. "I don't see what there is to be cagey about," she snapped. "And I don't like your manners."

"I'm not crazy about yours," I said. "I didn't ask to see you. You sent for me. I don't mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a Scotch bottle. I don't mind your showing me your legs. They're swell legs and it's a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don't waste your time trying to cross-examine me."

One thing that I never realized is how funny Chandler is. Marlowe, his main character, has an absolute distrust of the world, yet is able to laugh at the comedy that surrounds him, even when everybody takes it so seriously. Chandler realizes that, at the end of the day, none of the nonsense really matters all that much, but we still need to play the game.

He also has an eye for description that I usually associate with women. He discusses clothing and furniture in intimate detail, drawing out important personality traits from fabric choices and paint colors. There were a few times when I wondered if "interior decorator" might be something that Marlowe (or Chandler) left off his resume.

A guy who investigates murders yet is amused by the suspects, who is a man's man, yet has an eye for interior design, who presents a constant, ever-changing interpretation of reality... Using Marlowe, Chandler creates a world in which truth becomes incredibly flexible, and the search for truth becomes life-threatening.

In academia, it's amazing how often you hear the words "post-modern" and "existentialist" thrown around with very little understanding of the meaning that can underlay them. Perhaps the most amazing thing about Chandler is that he completely embraced these concepts and used them as an underpinning for his work, but did so with a smile and not a smidgen of self-consciousness.

I am totally in love.

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  • Crankster, dude, you won the postcard, but I didn't get a shipping address. If you want the card... delivery address to doingart at gmail period com. It's been a long time since I read any Chandler, but I pretty much milked him dry about 25 years ago.

    By Blogger Nat, At November 1, 2007 at 8:25 PM  

  • Nat-
    Many thanks; I've sent you my address. And, by the way, your dog portraits are awesome!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 1, 2007 at 8:46 PM  

  • It's been so long since I read him. For a moment, I confused him with Raymond Carver.

    By Blogger M@, At November 1, 2007 at 10:13 PM  

  • Please don't ask me when I read Chandler's works, I don't like to think about it.

    By Blogger The CEO, At November 2, 2007 at 12:29 AM  

  • They way you describe him, he sounds charming, oh wait, of course he's charming. Marlow is every bad flaw we want to be, detailed, dangerous, funny and honest. What is not to like about that??

    I like how the knees are described. Knees matter and they are often overlooked by breast and ass men.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 2, 2007 at 7:38 AM  

  • M@-
    Had a moment of that myself. Their names are just a little too similar.

    Then I remembered: Raymond Chandler isn't navel-gazing English Department whorebait!

    The time or the works?

    Reflecting Pool-
    For me, Marlowe is the guy who has seen it all, been damaged by it, and has no illusions about the world, yet still loves it. He does good, even though he knows that it will ultimately have little or no meaning.

    And, of course, he appreciates knees. I'm going to try to up my own knee appreciation, as it is sadly lacking!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 2, 2007 at 8:53 AM  

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