RARA-AVIS: RE: Review of Chandler Papers

From: billha@ionet.net
Date: 28 Feb 2001

I wasn't particularly upset by Temple's statement that "Hammett's equipment was second-rate. His prose was only slightly less wooden than that of most pulp-magazine writers, and there is something naive about his world view."

Just happened to be reading Red Harvest and chuckled over the following:

   "The girls square chin was tilted up. Her big red mouth was brutal around the words it shaped, and the lines crossing its ends were deep, hard.
   "The gambler looked as unpleasant as she. His pretty face was yellow and tough as oak. When he talked his lips were paper-thin."

So I'm seeing two sets of lines while balloons with words (cartoonlike) come out between; and then I'm looking at a guy who's an unhealthy yellow, but also like the rough trunk of an oak that is regularly processed into paper.... The stuff doesn't scan, except as one of those surreal cartoons from the 30s.

Wooden--but Temple is only talking about his style, not whole novels. The energy, the main characters, the plot drive all keep one going. I wouldn't have even thought, much less done, a number on those lines, if the subject hadn't been raised.

Course style is nice tool to have, as Chandler observed of Gardner. It helps one slide through some improbabilities in plot management. I always notice Hammett's management more than Chandler's, because there's less flash in the words.

Bill Hagen billha@ionet.net

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