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Book 79 Completed

December 28, 2010

I finished Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep today — certainly at the expense of some important things like showering and cleaning my house. It’s a small book, so don’t be too impressed, and it reads fast. But I really enjoyed it! I don’t think the book is as good as The Long Goodbye — it isn’t as layered, not quite as suspenseful, over-the-top for its 200 pages. But it was fun nonetheless and a great read for me on these dark rainy days of winter as I suffer through WEEK THREE of a cold (although, the doctor today said it is probably rhinitis of pregnancy…so, it won’t go away until March. Yeah. The joys of pregnancy. Do me a favor and go hug your mom. Like right now).

I love the 1903s tough-guy language. So, I can even tolerate the homophobia and misogyny that runs wild when Marlowe is on a case (it’s reasonable to get offended by it, but honestly, the book was published in 1939 — I’m not expecting much…especially in crime fiction). Look, you aren’t going to get smart women in these books — they’re all crazy. And somehow, you still end up liking the cynical detective. What I love also is that these books are masterful and so many crime novelists that have come after Chandler have merely been mimicking his style. I’ve admitted to loving Sue Grafton’s Alphabet books as guilty pleasure reads and there were times where I kept thinking, “Is Grafton trying to write like Chandler?” The clipped sentences, the basic plotting — there are similarities all around. But I suppose why mess with a formula that works, right?

Couple of things: In Stephen King’s On Writing book (WHICH I ADORE!!! And is assigned reading for all my students in my Creative Writing class…I encourage them to buy and mark up their very own copy; because honestly, it’s up there with the best books written about writing — can’t recommend it enough) he talks about how Chandler forgot to tie up a loose end in the book and when the screenwriters were trying to plot it out for the film version, they just called him up and asked him. I remembered this anecdote throughout the whole book and still couldn’t really figure out which murder was left unsolved. Somehow it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the prose, so Chandler is forgiven for his vagueness and convoluted plot development. (Which he must have remedied as he wrote more, because, again, The Long Goodbye is really tight and practically flawless.)

And lastly, I think I’ll need to check out The Maltese Falcon soon and then maybe it’s time to graduate to some modern noir fiction with James Ellroy.

Chandler is a champ though and I think his books are well worth reading.

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