Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Raymond Chandler

Accumulating scraps of paper with things scribbled on them is probably not a good idea beyond a certain age: consider the poor sod who has to come in to clear up after you've gone. Who except the stoney-hearted would not start checking words on paper, especially if it was known who had written them down. When this happens to me I start running through a few, and after a cursory glance, bin them, unless there is something worth keeping, in which case I put the quote or whatever in a digital file. Mind, this tidying doesn't last for long: one a few are thrown away then the rest are brushed aside. There is a mounting feeling something more important could, ought and should be done.

Occasionally something turns up which proves fortuitous. This is a good example. Part of this story is how completely I forget what I write down, then, if it is intrinsically interesting, am re-interested all over again, as if it is something seen for the very first time.

On an good quality A4, slightly yellowing - and indication it was three or four years ago or more, unless the paper started off yellow of course! - the words "Fish flakes and compost" - bracketed and with a line between them like part of an incomplete equation - a partially completed design for a house with an arrow pointing at it, but which now means nothing, and a quote from Raymond Chandler's "The Long Goodbye":

The French have a word for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right.
I wonder looking at this whether I took it down from the radio and if there is a semi-colon, or even a colon there and not a full stop as written down.

The main thing I remember hearing or reading about Chandler which both sticks in my mind as a rough paraphrase but which also stung me to the core, when I saw it for the first time and though it applied to me was:

There is nothing so pathetic as an almost writer.

I ought to get the exact wording and its context. But concentrate: What this Chandler French thing is about? It was put into the mouth of a character in one of his books, but it looks like something he, Chandler, might have felt strongly about. Did he have a French connection which might ake this remark more telling?

Authors and creators: Raymond Chandler looked promising. What sort of thing catches my eye? Yes, he studied (law) in France (and Germany) before the First World war, enlisting as a private in the Canadian Army, serving on the front line.

Not germane to the quest for a killer French connection, we learn:

In 1954, just a year after The Long Goodbye was published, Cissy died from fibrosis of the lungs, sending her then 66-year-old husband into a “long nightmare” of mourning that left him with severe depression and resulted in at least one suicide attempt. Biographers like Frank McShane (The Life of Raymond Chandler, 1976) have remarked on the mixture in Chandler's stories of toughness and sentimentality, and how “the emotional sensitivity that made [Chandler's] literary achievement possible also made him miserable as a human being.” That miserableness was much in evidence during the last five years of Chandler's life. He survived it, in part, through the ministrations of Helga Greene, his London literary agent and friend (and, in the months prior to his death, his fiancée), and went on to compose Playback, which was based on a screenplay he'd written in 1947. That novel reached bookstore shelves just 16 months before he passed away, on March 26, 1959.

What's next on the list? Some guys weblog with " P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler had the same English teacher." which is interesting in itself. No reference.

Luc Sante in the Threepenny Review ("French Without Tears ") has Chandler highlighted but in what context?

Midway through college, I stopped writing poetry altogether. I doubted my talent, but I also had found what I thought was the authentic music of the American language, in the prose of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James M. Cain. "They threw me off the hay truck about noon," the opening sentence of The Postman Always Rings Twice, seemed to exemplify in nine words all the highest virtues of American prose.
This is interesting as a whole. No way this would have popped up as readily without this Chandler quest. He's also into the French way with words and the American,too.

I haven't found what I was hoping for. Another search another time. Stop with the words. Douglas Adam's on the internet surfacing in my mind...what were those words? Google.

Just a minute what is this? The Long Sunday. A commenter feels the urge to quote Raymond Chandler on the French and their many words on reading this post: Things Changed.

Ah, Douglas:
How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet.

Why does a dead man's website seem more poignant than his paper words? Because you expect him to do one more post?

But where is your quote? Oh blast, I'll have to paraphrase it: "The internet is very useful but a terrible waste of time."


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