Sunday 24 May 2009

Savouring Chandler

A couple of weeks ago I shocked the blogosphere by admitting a huge deficit in my crime fiction reading. Well, maybe not the blogosphere. More like five people, I'd estimate, but I'm a fan of hyperbole.

Anyway, Penguin's imprint, Hamish Hamilton, stepped in to help me out by sending five GORGEOUS Raymond Chandler books. I'm halfway through the Big Sleep right now and feel compelled to blog a little about a line or three I read today.

"... but a pansy has no iron in his bones, whatever he looks like."

"He was like Caesar, a husband to women and a wife to men."

"Go -- yourself."

It struck me as an interesting sign of the times. Chandler didn't drop the F-bomb in The Big Sleep, yet he had no problem with Marlowe's sweeping statements about pansies and using another deeply offensive and homophobic F-word. And it made me wonder, fifty years from now, what will readers of the future classics (I'm thinking Bruen, McKinty, Bateman, McGilloway and all my favourites) pick out as bizarre and dated?


seana graham said...

It's interesting to think about, although I suppose that, creatures of our times as we are, we couldn't guess at it. I've been reading Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad in the odd moment for awhile now, and though I'm constantly surprised at how modern he is--really, in relation to the sites and wonders he's seeing, our contemporary--there are those odd moments when he rants against whole nations or classes of people when I find myself thinking, 'really, Mark?'. Because most of the time he strikes me as quite compassionate and sensitive to others, it feels odd when he falls back on to dated stereotypes.

Glad you've started making up for that Chandler deficit in your education, Gerard. Can't say that I've done the same.

adrian mckinty said...


Did you ever read Norman Mailer's Naked and the Dead. For some reason Mailer wrote 'fugging' all the way through and then didnt change it when it became acceptable to say fuck. I read it a few years ago and it came across as slightly ridiculous.

And seriously, where can I get Blood's a Rover?

Josephine Damian said...

Adrian: You can mug Stuart Neville for his copy of ROVER.

I read THE WOMAN IN WHITE (first published in 1860) and it felt as fresh as if it were written today (not that anything written today can match its quality). Also quite the page-turner.

IMO, when you lay on the style with a heavy hand you date your prose. Just tell the damn story - good story telling never goes out of style.

BTW, I never read Chandler either and don't intend to.

Gerard Brennan said...

Seana - You know, I'd quite like to read more Twain. We studied Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer at school and I remember enjoying them both, but I never did pick up any of his other work.

Adrian - No, I haven't read that one, but when I was very young I read Robocop 2 (couldn't convince my da to get me the movie) and they used fug in place of fuck. I wonder was Mailer a bit skint back then?

Josephine - "Just tell the damn story..." That seems like an obvious idea, but I can see where you're coming from. It's likely something too many writers forget.

Ah, go on. Read some Chandler.



seana graham said...

As to Twain, I never wanted to read the non-fiction until recently--I can't think why, as it's very enjoyable. I read Puddin'head Wilson and Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court as an adult. I liked Puddin'head, but not so much the Arthurian one. His short stories are good as well.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Interesting you should single out those lines. I always notice Chandler's crude treatment of gay characters. Yet I once read an interview in which he said something about hoping that someone would write something that would show udnerstanding of the "homosexualist." However crude his treatment might have been, he apparently recognized a weakness in his own understanding.

In re Twain, try Roughing It.
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

Gordon Harries said...

I've got a copy of 'Blood's A Rover', but then I'm possibly interviewing the man his ownself this November.

seana graham said...

That ought to be interesting, Gordon. And you can read pretty much any inflection you want into that 'interesting' and they would all be true...

I met him once, just for a moment at a book conference, and he is quite a character. Very likeable, though, in an odd way.