Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Wit of Raymond Chandler

What books do we re-read? When I was in high school, I spent my study hall reading the "Lord of the Rings".Over and over again. I read all of Thomas Wolfe's five pound novels, for I loved passages where he described loneliness, and the sound of trains, and the promises of the great American night.But one wants more wit and irony as one grows older,and even less innocence.

I read Raymond Chandler repeatedly. "The Long Goodbye" and the "Lady in the Lake" never grow old. They are as fresh as the day they were written. Here is private eye Phillip Marlowe talking about the first time he met Terry Lennox, the man who is the mystery at the heart of "The Long Goodbye". Marlowe is describing Lennox's female companion:

"There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn't quite. Nothing can".

In fifty years will anyone read John Updike or Phillp Roth? I doubt it. But people will read Chandler forever.


Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

You would love this blog, Betsy:

"In So Many Words"

Yvette often reviews mysteries. Chandler is one of her favorites.

betsy said...

Thanks for the tip! I have already stored it under "Favorites. And it is so beautifully produced.

Tom Williams said...

I think you're absolutely right about Chandler. His books will stand the test of time like Dickens. But I would also make a case for his letters which are not read anywhere near as widely. They are passionate, intimate and expressive, revealing a lot about the man behind the novels. Raymond Chandler often felt lonely, writing or dictating letters late into the night in an effort to connect with people he rarely if ever met. These letters are very human and real and well worth a read if you can get your hands on an edition.