Sunday, January 08, 2006

Delete Bin Book Review; The Raymond Chandler Papers

$4.99 in delete bin. Posted by Picasa

Chapters is what passes for a book store in the west end of Ottawa, I think of it as Plato's Cave with a coffee bar. There's a big table with Michael Moores's 'Will They Ever Trust Us Again?', [$3.99] an impressive three titles by Al Franklin [$5.99], three by Bill Clinton, two by Hillary and two by M. Chretien [$3.99].

I didn't go near the 'Heather's Picks' table, I worry someone I know might see me.

I did however, find a very readable book over in the dead white guys section. The one featured above. I'd like to excerpt it but it's all so good I'd end up copying it out.

Well .... O.K.

Letter to Charles Morton, 12 December 1945.

"Can I do a piece for you entitled "The Insignificance of Significance', in which I will demonstate in my usual whorehouse style that it doesn't matter a damn what a novel is about, that the only fiction of any moment in any age is that which does magic with words, and that the subject matter is merely the springboard for the writer's imagination; .....

Letter to Jamie Hamilton, 30 May 1946

"When and if you see The Big Sleep (the first half anyhow), you will realize what can be be done with this sort of story by a director with the gift of atmosphere and the requisite touch of hidden sadism. Bogart, of course, is also so much bette than any other tough-guy actor that he makes bums of the Ladds and the Powells. As we say here, Bogart can be tough without a gun. Also he has a sense of humor that contains that grating undertone of contempt. Ladd is hard, bitter and occasionally charming, but he is after all a small boy's idea of a tough guy. Bogart is the genuine article. Like Edward G. Robinson when he was younger all he has to do to dominate a scene is to enter it. The Big Sleep has had an unfortunate history. The girl who played the nymphy sister was so good she shattered Miss Bacall completely. So they cut the picture in such a way that all her best scenes were left out except one. The result made nonsense and Howard Hawks threatened to sue to restrain Warners from releasing the picture...... Hawks time after time got dissatisfied with his script and would go back to the book and shoot scenes straight out of it.

Letter to Charles Morton, 13 October 1945

He [Hammett] was one of the many guys who couldn't take Hollywood without trying to push God out of his seat....

Letter to James Sandoe, 26 January 1944

..... The French are the only people I know of who think about writing as writing. The Anglo-Saxons think first of the subject matter, and second, if at all, of the quality.

Letter to Dale Warren, 7 January 1945.

I wrote melodrama because when I looked around me it was the only kind of writing I saw that was relatively honest and yet was not trying to put over somebody's party line. So now there are guys talking about prose and other guys telling me I have a social conscience. P. Marlowe has a much social conscience a horse. He has a personal conscience, which is an entirely different matter. ... P. Marlowe doesn't give a damn who is President; neither do I, because I know he will be a politician. There was even a bird who informed me I could write a good proletarian novel; in my limited world there is no such animal, and if there were, I am the last mind in the world to like it, being by tradition and long study a complete snob. P. Marlowe and I don't despise the upper classes because they take baths and have money; we despise them because they are phony.

Chandler knows himself and the human condition inside out. His stories are character driven as a result. He levels critism and admiration at the same time which is a style I'm not used to but he does it with humour and I like that. He knows his limits, his strengths and the situation he is in pretty much his whole adult life. He also offers great observations about Hollywood. I've spent all morning with this book. It's a great read.

Italics Mine


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