Friday, April 17, 2009

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

I read recently that all the world can be divided between Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett fans. Considering that most of the present world has never heard of these two writers of detective fiction, I’m wondering how that could be true. I’m still undecided as to which one I like better. Jim Widner over at Radio Detective Story Hour intrigued me by describing Chandler’s creation, Phillipe Marlowe, as more cerebral and sensitive than other popular detectives of the 1940’s. So I was delighted when I found a brand new copy of The Big Sleep at our library.

I should have taken Mandi's word for it when she doubted this book’s status as "literature", but I thought I’d have an insider’s understanding of the book since I’m a big fan of the old time radio podcasts which feature Marlowe. Well, I was wrong. As I read, I kept wondering, “Why is a nice girl like me reading a book like this?” Though the sins depicted in the book are not as graphic as those described in contemporary fiction, there are references to homosexuality, drinking, profanity and nudity. It seemed more than a little ironic that the hard-drinking P.I. abhorred pornography and was able to resist the charms of all the women who threw themselves at him.

Chandler is considered to be one of the fathers of “hard-boiled” detective novels and he certainly knows how to weave a good story, but for now I’ll stick to the family friendly radio shows. One totally off-the-wall comment I’d like to make about the book concerns its lovely binding. The book, Raymond Chandler: Stories and Early Novels: Pulp Stories , is part of the Library of America series and is beautifully bound with a ribbon book marker - a joy to hold while reading!


Janet said...

I'm not very well-versed in detective fiction, beyond Lord Peter Whimsy. But I think I've heard of this title before.

I've had that feeling too -- "Why is this a classic again?" It helps me to define my own standards by having to go against the flow a bit.

Cheri Martin said...

this set of books is really beautiful! glad you're enjoying our PACA classics!