Monday, February 24, 2014


The Big Sleep: A Novel (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)THE BIG SLEEP is Chandler’s first novel and this is my Chandler’s first read. So I’ll tell you what strikes first: it’s Chandler’s writing style, the ironic voice of private detective Philip Marlowe, a man who drinks too much, smokes too much and, we suspect, uses smoke and drink to hide personal wounds. The man is as much a mystery as the plot itself which, in places, gets messy and overcharged. What draws the reader to this novel, besides the style and voice, is the atmospheric charm of the descriptions. It’s hard to imagine so much rain in Los Angeles. But Chandler makes his suspension of disbelief effective. Besides, the rain may stand for something else. As does the wealthy family he works for, in ruins. There is a social commentary subtext here. Perhaps not so much of a subtext as a theme as Chandler associates decay with the City of Angels. At times, you feel as if you are entering the lonesomeness of a Hopper painting (think "Nighthawks"). And it may be why Chandler is part of literature.