RARA-AVIS: Noir tragedy

From: Doug Hoffman, MD ( hoffmand@cc.northcoast.com)
Date: 26 Feb 2002

I just finished re-reading THE LONG GOODBYE. (I have this great knack of forgetting endings. All I need to do is wait long enough. I'd read this book once before, in the early 90s, and all I could remember was it was about some guy who goes down to Mexico.) I've been rereading a lot of Chandler lately, and I told my wife I thought GOODBYE had to be one of his best. I have a soft spot for THE BIG SLEEP, but I still thought a lot of GOODBYE.

She liked it, too (and unlike me, she doesn't have to reread books every five to ten years), but in her opinion, the best noirs are tragedies... which is why she favors THE BIG SLEEP and FAREWELL, MY LOVELY. Now, her premise is interesting (I think) and I wonder if you folks agree. But I'm not so sure I agree with her that GOODBYE isn't a tragedy. Here Marlowe has busted his ass to do something for the sake of friendship, and more than a little out of guilt, only to discover that it was all for nothing... and by the end, he seems even sadder and more disillusioned than ever. Would Marlowe ever go this far out on a limb for a friend, ever again? And isn't that change tragic, in some sense?

Doug Hoffman

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