Sunday, December 30, 2007

Raymond Chandler | The Long Goodbye

Early in The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler’s brilliant, Lombard Street-plotted mystery, private detective Philip Marlowe describes himself. “I’m a lone wolf, unmarried, getting middle-aged, and not rich...I like liquor and women and chess and a few other things…when I get knocked off in a dark alley somewhere…nobody will feel that the bottom has dropped out of his or her life.” What Marlowe left out is that he is a romantic who values loyalty, love, and friendship, but who is incapable of displaying those without a good dose with cynicism and acidic humor. These qualities are palpably present in this novel, Chandler’s sixth of seven to feature Marlowe.

The detective’s refusal to abandon the memory of his friend Terry Lennox exacerbates his drinking and relationship with the cops, but people still seek him out for jobs. After encountering a cast of characters that include a publisher, a nymphomaniac, a gangster, an alcoholic novelist, and an obsessed-wife, Marlowe finally learns the truth about Lennox. Like Chandler’s best known novels, The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely, his typically serpentine plots aren’t the point in his novels. It’s the dialogue, the pacing of the story, the crisp descriptions, and the beautiful similes. Not a mere mystery stylist, Chandler explores the depths of post-World War II depravity with an unflinching lens, Marlowe, who takes punches with a wink, a smile, and a snide remark, who ultimately uncovers lies and liars, who has no regard for those concealing truths. Once Marlowe has finished his work, the world remains corrupt and vicious, filled with people who feel they can get away with anything. But Marlowe isn’t here to save the world; he is here to be its unrelenting conscience.
(Photo credit: Random House)

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