View Poll Results: The Big Sleep: Final Verdict

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  • * Waste of time. Wouldn't recommend it.

    0 0%
  • ** Didn't like it much.

    0 0%
  • *** Average.

    2 50.00%
  • **** It is a good book.

    0 0%
  • ***** Liked it very much. Would strongly recommend it.

    2 50.00%
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Thread: December / Crime Fiction Reading: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

  1. #1
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    December / Crime Fiction Reading: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

    In December we will be reading The Big Sleep by Chandler.

    Please post your thoughts and questions in this thread.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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    Cool Raymod Chandler's life was as convoluted as his novels ...

    Born in the US, Chandler's Irish mother was deserted by his alcoholic father. His mother took Chandler to England where he was educated. He joined the Canadian army and fought in the trenches of France in WW 1. Chandler exhibited no penchant for alcohol until returning to England as a shell-shocked soldier suffering from a concussion from a cannon shell.

    He eventually became an English subject by his applying for English citizen- ship so he could land a civil service position. In less than a year, he became bored with the civil service and returned to the US, settling in Los Angeles.
    He became an employee of an oil company with an excellent slary, but was fired for chronic absenteeism and alcoholism.

    Married to a woman 18 years older than himself, he begain to write in order to support his wife and himself. His wife had divorced her husband in order to marry Chandler. He wrote for the so called pulp fiction magazines and was succesful at it. Then he switched to writing novels. The Big Sleep was published in 1939, and Philip Marlowe was introduced to the world. Chandler considered Dashiel Hammett as his mentor, but he went beyond Hammett's capabilities.

    Certain critics began to say that what Chandler wrote was literature. He was compared to Hemingway because of his short, pithy sentences, but this is where the remblance ended. Chandler was a master at writing dialogue where Hemingway sometimes failed. Chandler's similes, aphorisms, and witty epigrams soon brought a new word to the English language: Chandlerism's. Watch for these when reading the Big Sleep and google them to find many examples such as: He was as conspicuous as a tarantula on a piece of angel food cake.

    Chandler also became a screen writer. With Billy Wilder, he co-authored the screen play for Double Indemnity which was originally written by James Cain. But alcoholism followed him throughout his life. He died intestate at 70, leaving a disputed estate of only $60,000. His legacy of crime literature has never been equalled. Even the most insulated person has heard of his tough private eye, Philip Marlowe, who was the epitome of chivalry also. I like to think that somwhere Chandler is composing another convoluted, enigmatic novel on an old typewriter while wearing the white gloves he puportedly wore when writing his masterpieces

    For more about Raymond Chandler, see Raymond Chandler, A Biography, by Tom Hiney.
    Last edited by dfloyd; 12-01-2009 at 06:31 PM.

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    Bought it on Monday on what is possibly my last trip to Borders as they are in receivership in UK and all the stores may be closing soon. I realised no-one had been tempted by my suggestion of Mankell - again - so gave in gracefully and went with the majority vote. Will start it soon and will look forward to reading the comments of fellow readers.

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    Cool Where to find some good Chandler books...

    If any are interested, an outstanding copy of The Big Sleep is available from Arion Press. They are a small handbindery which publish very limited editions, sometimes selling for $4,000 (Don Quixote in 2 volumes). They have published a superb edition of The Big Sleep, which is not sold out, for $750. As much as I am a fan of Raymond Chandler, I wouldn't pay that much, even though it is a letterpress edition. However, they have published a trade edition which they have printed by some offset method. What makes it unique is the illustrations which are photos which were shot as movie stills: the photos which used to be posted under glass outside of movie theatres. The characters are professional models, and this technique for illustrations works well. There is even a photograph of the dippy Sternwood sister when she hid herelf in Marlowe's bed in the nude. This scene was not used in the Bogart movie or the lesser known movie of 1978 with Robert Mitchum. This edition sells for a more affordable $35. It is worth its price to a Chandler afficianado.

    To get all the novels of Raymond Chandler, try the Folio Society edition of all seven novels in a single slipcase. When the books are inserted in the slipcase in the right order, the spines portray a silhouette of Philip Marlowe with gun drawn. This is a very attractive version of the novels, with noir illustrations. It is out of print now, but usually available in the used book market with price being dependent on condition.

  5. #5
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    So much for not judging books by their covers.

    I have just ordered mine from the local library.
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    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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  6. #6
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    ohh, I forgot to pick this up.
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  7. #7
    Registered User neilgee's Avatar
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    I feel like such a vandal because the pages are just peeling away from the spine of my copy as I turn them! It's not from rough handling. The most physical thing I've done with it is put it in a bag and carry it on to a bus [I get alot of reading done on buses since I lost my car] but 'm going to feel terrible taking it back to the library with loose and losable pages for the next reader.

    Anyhow, I've never read Chandler before and I've only read the first two chapters but working on the premise that early impressions are as important as any others I can see how floyd would say that the original "private eye" began with this novel.

    Certainly I can see the similarities with Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer from the cool Marlowe. That pose Hammer must have borrowed from Marlowe.

    What I am aware of too is that Chandler's other characters are also "posing" in the first two chapters, I mean they seem to be playing roles that are quite carefully ordered, like the Butler whose eyes may flash but who says the things that set off Marlowe's provocations well and make them readable; and the rich man in his orchid sauna who looks at Marlowe strangely sometimes but ultimately plays a foil for M's wit too, and then the flirtatious rich man's daughter who just throws herself at Marlowe.

    I'm not saying these things are good or bad: these are just first impressions and I hope I havn't gone on for too long after having read so little ha, ha.
    Last edited by neilgee; 12-04-2009 at 12:50 PM.
    What are regrets? Just lessons we haven't learned yet - Beth Orton

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    Cool Marlowe as a sardonic wit, but he is ....

    also chivalrous. Spillane's Mike Hammer is not even close to Philip Marlowe. I, the Jury was te only Spillane book of any consequence. The only thing Chandler and Spillane have in common is that they are both deceased. Read Chandler's dialogue carefully. He is the best!!!!!!

  9. #9
    Registered User neilgee's Avatar
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    I'm not saying I rate Spillane, I did read one of his novels when I was young and I wasn't impressed. Alot of cheap thuggery dressed up as coolness.

    Chandler's prose can be quite funny too, found this on page 32 of my copy: "There was nothing on his desk but a blotter, a cheap pen set, his hat and one of his feet". That in itself is far superior to anything I remember of Spillane's writing.

    Incidentally I now have much less to read than I did when I last posted because I noticed that in small letters after The Big Sleep on my copy it says "and Other Novels". The other novels are Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Good-bye which both have more pages than The Big Sleep.
    What are regrets? Just lessons we haven't learned yet - Beth Orton

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    Neilgee and others ....

    After you read the Big Sleep, you should watch the Bogart movie with Lauren Bacall as the elder Sternwood sister. Bogart had a unique opportunity in that he famously played the two most famous private eyes in American crime literature: Sam Spade in the Maltese Facon and Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep. Both are excellent movies.

    The Big Sleep was filmed twice. It was shot in 1945 and a prerelease was seen by a few. It was decided that Bogart and Bacall were such a hot item that they should have more scenes together. So portions were reshot, which took out some of the more explanatory scenes, and the movie was released to the general audiences with more B & B. Last year, the movie was put on DVD with one version on one side and the released version on the other. So you can now see both.

    The scene where the younger, dotty Sternwood sister awaits Marlowe in his bed, nude of course, is not in either version. The producers were worried about the censors existing at that time since the elder Sternwood was aware of what happened to her husband. This would have made her an accessory to any crime committed and bait for the censors. In those days, if you were guilty of a crime shown in a movie, you had to be punished.

    There was a version of The Big Sleep made in 1978 starring Robert Mitchum. This version is terrible even though Mitchum made quite a few Noir movies and was a competant actor. James Stewart as General Sternwood couldn't save the movie. It was a mishmash with the venue changed from Pasedena to London. LA and environs was the home ground of Chandler and Philip Marlowe, and London just did not work.

    Many actors played Marlowe over the years, but Bogart was the best. Coming in a close second was Dick Powell, a song and dance man turned straight actor. Farewell, My Lovely was his movie, and its a pretty good one. The powers in Hollywood felt that Farewell, My Lovely might make some think it was a love story so they changed the name to Murder, My Sweet. It's now on dvd and is worth seeing.

    Another Marlowe movie is The Lady in the Lake. In this one, Marlowe is played by Robert Montgomery, the father of Elizabeth Montgomery of TV's Bewitched fame. This one is unique in that Marlow is never seen head on. the audience only sees his back, sees his mirror image, etc. Worth seeing, but not up to the Bogart and Powell movies.

    James Grner Played Marlowe in the Little Sister. I think it was made for TV, and is best forgotten.

    The worst to play Marlowe was Eliot Gould. He made a psychodelic one of The long Goodbyr (I think). It was one of the best forgotten things they made in the 70s with the whole movie shot in an orange psychodelic color. It is the worst of the lot, even if Gould wasn't fat as he his in the Oceans movies.
    Last edited by dfloyd; 12-04-2009 at 07:05 PM.

  11. #11
    Love, peace & harmony sadparadise's Avatar
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    I found the book to be average. But I have never enjoyed crime genre novels. So my opinion of this novel is hardly important. Sorry folks just not my style of novel. I am glad that I gave it a try though!!

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    Cool I'm glad you said you didn't like the crime novel,

    SadParadise, because Raymond Chandler is certainly not your average writer. However, when comparing him to others, the others should be in the crime genre. Chandler was no Dickens and shouldn't be compared to him, or any other classic novelist. Chandler's ability to express himself in his many similes and aphorisims merits him as excellent in his chosen field: tough crime. His understanding of the brutality of LA in the 40s gives him a heads up as he writes about crime. Until Dashiell Hammett and Chandler, the English with their drawing room murders dominated crime fiction. But these two, as one critic said, took murder out of the drawing room and into the back alleys where it belongs.

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