RARA-AVIS: Re: Hammett, Chandler & bravery

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 12 Dec 2003

In a message dated 12/12/03 4:00:58 AM Eastern Standard Time, owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca writes:

<< From: Kerry Schooley < gsp.schoo@skylinc.net>
 Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler, Hammett & bravery
 At 09:08 PM 10/12/2003 -0500, you wrote:
>So let's appreciate them for what they are and not burden them with more
>attitudes than they had in real life--and they had more than a
>sufficiency. Let's
>judge them by what is on the page and not what was in their background that
>may or may not have any significance.
 How about I judge them for what's on the page and sift through their
 backgrounds to try to understand influences on what got put on the page?

If you think I was speaking against such sifting, let me correct the record.
 I think it is interesting and potentially enlightening to conduct such examinations. Do it all the time myself. Great fun and sometimes I think it improves my understanding of a piece of fiction. I don't think it is fair to visit on the writer attitudes or actions that others may have brought to the discussion. The "others" applicable to this situation begin with Black Mask editor Joseph Shaw who angered some writers as he insisted they all pattern themselves on Hammett. Gardner especially was annoyed by Shaw and pointed out (to Chandler among others) that the magazine was publishing good hardboiled fiction prior to Shaw becoming editor.

While it doesn't improve or diminish the quality of the story "Rear Window" to know that Cornell Woolrich spent years of his life observing life through a hotel window, it is a neat thing to know and I'm glad that I know it. And yes, Cornell did have a life prior to retreating to the hotel rooms. I've got Nevins' doorstop of a book in some box or other and recall the playing with spent cartridges in Mexico as a child story. As I recall it, very little is known about Woolrich's early years beyond a few official records and the true or not fragments he dropped into letters and conversations. Here is the way that story was related by William DeAndrea in his ENCYCLOPEDIA MYSTERIOUSA: "He spent much of his youth in Mexico with his engineer father, with a Mexican revolution raging nearby. He made a hobby of picking up spent cartridge shells outside his window. We think."

The "we think" was a nice touch by DeAndrea who had the grain of salt ready if needed.

His sad last years are reasonably well documented as he drank himself to death and snarled at well-wishers. My favorite by Woolrich is RENDEZVOUS IN BLACK, which reprises the plotline of THE BRIDE WORE BLACK and improves upon it.

Richard Moore

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