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Archive | 6 March 2013

A word about #rereading (a new series)

our cat bella logo

I’ve always figured that I have a book addiction. I just never intended to do anything about it.

rereading logoHowever, the flow of books in and money out has finally brought me to a peaceful truce with my mania.

I have not bought a book for six weeks, and I intend to stay this course.

I have stopped buying books, which means that I am free to read the books that I have on hand. For as long as I can remember, I have impulsively dreamed up research plans and purchased the books I imagined that I would need. Such dreaming is the work of a moment, and with the help of Amazon and single-click fulfillment, I have a number of piles ready and waiting for my attention.

Trouble is, I have been far better at the dreaming than the reading, like those who live to sleep.

  • My first project, in a series I’m calling #rereading, is the works of Raymond Chandler AKA Philip Marlowe. The first post in that series [Here’s Why Chandler] follows this post.

A note on #rereading: Since my dreaming about these book projects revolves around moving from what I know to what I want to know, it is accurate to stress the re- part of the reading. Also, I like the idea of meeting books again for the first time.

Take your pick.

1

Here’s why Chandler

our cat bella logoThe first order of business is a brief examination of the why question.

rereading logoWhy Raymond Chandler.

I like the reason that Ed Asner gave Mary Tyler Moore. He picked up a copy of Chandler’s short stories and read her the first paragraph of Red Winds —

raymond chandler picThere was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Ana’s that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

That, Asner tells Moore, is good writing.

Something to that effect.

Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks.

I intent to study not only Chandler’s neck but his nouns and verbs, his similes, his characters and plots, and anything else that moves on the mean streets of Chandler’s enduring genius.

In two nights of reading, I am halfway through The Big Sleep. I have made light pencil ticks next to wonderful writing that I do not remember from previous visits to Chandler —

The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men. They smelled as overpowering as boiling alcohol under a blanket.

• • •

Whoever had done it [dragged a body out the door] had meant business. Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.

• • •

Hair like steel wool grew far back on his head and gave him a great deal of domed brown forehead that might at a careless glance have seemed a dwelling place for brains.

Those are fine examples of Chandler’s writing, but this one stands out for me as the best of the bunch so far —

So she giggled. Very cute. The giggles got louder and ran around the corners of the room like rats behind the wainscoting.

By the time we get the simile, the giggles are already growing little feet and exchanging street names. Anyone, like a writer with his thinking cap on, can write similes. Chandler, it feels like to me, begets them.

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