Monday, March 01, 2010


Perfect weather from my standpoint: it snowed a bit last night, enough to be pretty but not enough to make the roads hazardous; woke up early this morning to a cold and pretty fog; now it's sunny and wintry, cold enough to feel exciting, warm enough that I can stroll about with a couple light layers.

Driving downtown this morning, a bit north of Pearl, it struck me that the place looks a bit friendlier in the winter. With the tree cover stripped away and the mountains looming to the west, the low roofs make the city look a bit vulnerable. It feels like I'm seeing Boulder of decades past, a slightly-oversized ski town.

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#8 -- "The Big Sleep" by Raymond Chandler

It's been many years since I read first this, then (in quick succession) the remainder of Chandler's work. In that time, two (unfair) things have happened:

* I've discounted Chandler's work a bit, particularly in comparison to Dashiell Hammett (why I felt I couldn't like both equally, I'm not sure). This is partly because it took longer to read all of Hammett's work, so it stayed fresh longer (and I've re-read "Red Harvest" since). And I read Chandler's work more-or-less in order, so I was left with the bad aftertaste of "Playback" and whatever that horrific book was that some other guy finished.

* I've watched the film version of "The Big Sleep" a bunch of times in the intervening years, so the romantic Bogart take on it has become the defining version for me.

Time to rectify that and give Chandler a good hearty re-read. I was driven to this after finally starting to read "City of Quartz" by Mike Davis: his chapter on noir reminded me that I really loved this book once upon a time. It's a beautiful nasty bastard of a book, surprisingly angry and tightly wound. It's been long enough and my memory was shaky enough that it felt like I was reading something new. New and very, very good.

1 comment:

fredoluv said...

i had similarly dismissed Chandler for years -- for me it was him not meeting the gritty/perverse standards set by the Gold Medal writers. Bah, I was a young fool!

I re-read Chandler a couple years ago, and was pretty blown away. HIs use of language is really elegant and hypnotic, but also I found a more twisted and bleak side to Marlowe than I had remembered. He's not quite an existential sad sack, but he's not exactly Mike Hammer either. I really grew to love him.

I love the Bogart version of Marlowe, but re-reading Chandler found me swapping in the Elliot Gould version instead. Have you seen The Long Goodbye? It's incredible, a great performance by a completely underrated actor. It's hard for me to visualize anyone else as Chandler...just as it's hard for me to imagine anyone other than Bogart as Sam Spade.