RARA-AVIS: re Chandler vs. Hammett

From: Jennifer Howard ( howardjen@washpost.com)
Date: 04 Dec 2003

I recently read "The Thin Man" for the first time and found it pretty unmemorable--because of the style and the too-easy characterizations. Somebody else commented on Hammett's style now being considered "standard"
(sorry if I'm mischaracterizing what was said), but it just felt ordinary to me. Maybe this isn't Hammett's finest moment, but almost everything I've read by Chandler has stayed with me much more vividly, even the lesser efforts.

I wonder, too, about Chandler's "struggling" more than Hammett for "an authentic American voice." What is an authentic American voice, anyway? Marlowe *feels* American to me--the combination of decency and cynicism, for one thing--even though I don't think mid-century Angelenos really talked like that.


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