Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler- Library of America

From: Ray Skirsky (
Date: 19 Jul 2000

At 07:04 AM 7/19/00 -0700, you wrote:
>No offense, but I think this is just plain silly.
>FAREWELL, MY LOVELY is a good book period -- whether
>it's the first edition, or a battered paperback, or
>the LOA edition, or written on grocery bags with
>crayon. To focus on anything else is really to focus
>on ornamental stuff, nothing important.

I think you've carried this argument ad absurdem. A novel written on grocery bags with crayon would be impossible to read comfortably. Format does matter to the reading experience. For example, many of us old-timers find it difficult to read e-texts. When I receive a soft copy of a document that I must read, I print it, giving great mirth to my younger co-workers, who have no trouble reading large chunks of text on-line and consider my inability a sign of creeping senility.

Changing the format may not change the novel, but if it changes the comfort level of the reader, then it does change the experience. Myself, I like old HBs and PBs and pulps. I've discovered that it's fairly easy to find used HB reprints (G&D, AL Burt, et al) of ERB or Sax Rohmer or even Hammet and Chandler for about the price of a new PB. I always buy these, even if I have the paperback. And when I read the book, I usually dig out the HB, because I prefer reading this old worn book, imagining myself as part of the chain of readers who've done so over the years. The novel doesn't change, but I do.

One of my goals is to collect all of the Argosy mags of the '30s (I'm 80% there) and then start reading them one a week, giving me an experience similar to the original subscribers, who had to wait till next week to read the next installment of the Earl Stanley Garner or Max Brand serial. I suspect that somewhere along the way my discipline will break down and I'll not wait till next week, which will change how I experience this fiction. But that's my plan.


>Once I scrape together the cash I'm getting the LOA
>editions myself. They're durable, sturdy volumes that
>bear up under use. I'm particularly interested in the
>first of the Polito-edited volumes: if I remember
>right that one has THIEVES LIKE US, a book I've been
>long searching for.
>--- wrote:
> > Am I the only one who doesn't think its as much fun
> > to read Chandler and
> > Hammett in the very august packaging of the LOA?
> > Same is true for the works
> > included in the Polito-edited noir volumes. Much as
> > I appreciate their
> > inclusion in the LOA as validation of these works as
> > literature worthy of the
> > best the U.S. has to offer, I think there's an
> > aesthetic disconnect in
> > reading these works in that format.
> >
> > Just my $0.02.
>Doug Bassett
>Do You Yahoo!?
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