Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler- Library of America

From: William Denton (
Date: 19 Jul 2000

On 19 July 2000, Ray Skirsky wrote:

: 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.

There was a mention of this on the fictionmags list a little while ago. Someone brought up the Borges story about Pierre Menard, who writes DON QUIXOTE again, word for word, except it's better than Cervantes' version
(if I rememember right). H.G. Wells was published in British magazines like THE STRAND and read by Victorians at the height of the Empire. He was republished by Hugo Gernsback and read by American kids in Idaho in the '30s. Same story, perhaps, but very different.

The same's true for Chandler and other classic hardboiled stuff. Grabbing the latest BLACK MASK from the crippled newsie on the corner, tossing him a quarter and slapping a Lucky in your yap while you ankle over to the automat for a coffee and a sinker is a hell of a lot different from ordering a Library of America omnibus edition from Amazon while liberating personal time from your boss in your cubicle at work. It all depends on what you like, though. The first Chandler editions I read were the Vintage reprints from the '70s or so, with bright, pastelish covers. The sizes were nice and the type was good, and when I reread Chandler, I pull those down. I'd like the LOA edition, and consider it authoritative, but I wouldn't read it on the subway. Nor would I read the serialization of THE MALTESE FALCON in BLACK MASK on the subway, though I'd love to have that too.

I have five Mike Hammer books in one omnibus hardcover edition, which I got to replace five ratty paperbacks. I haven't reread any of them since then, but then again I haven't reread any Spillane since then.

The important thing is that the books are easily available to everyone at reasonable prices in nice editions. People like us can hunt for our preferred obscure printings. If the LOA editions bring new people to Hammett and Chandler, wonderful.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.

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