Sunday, April 17, 2016

Chandler, Raymond (The Long Goodbye)

Reading one of the first of a genre is something special. (Although in fact this novel is one of the last that Chandler wrote, it's still the first one of his that I've read. And he was at the top of his game in defining the genre by this point.)

We've all seen some version of film noir, whether it's the incomparable Maltese Falcon or the super classic The Big Sleep. The world of film noir - and if the film is based on a novel, the noir detective novel - is essentially grumpy. Everyone in it thinks the world is going to pot, whether it's the gumshoe, the cop, the gangster or the blonde. And the private dick is the one with the moral conscience - others don't ever get to rate as highly as he does - consequently, he is your anti-hero. A grumpy old puss with a heart of gold.

What Chandler does differently in this novel is put himself in it. He adds a victim - of circumstance, of his own making, of both - who is a novelist. One of those novelists who writes really long books because that's what the public wants and who is quite the hack writer, adding sexual innuendos wherever he can. It adds a nice bit of humor to the whole grisly affair, although of course what happens to this victim is not particularly funny.

There is a sequence about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way in where Chandler describes the different kinds of blondes in the world. I started the scene getting my feminist hackles up and ended it in complete amazement of his craft. That's why you read Chandler.

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