Re: RARA-AVIS: The Maltese Falcon

From: William Denton (
Date: 10 Sep 2004

On 10 September 2004, JIM DOHERTY wrote:

: But Spade, who, like Hammett, is tall, extremely thin, blond, with an
: angular face that looks like it's composed from a series of v's (giving
: him a rather satanic look),

Spade looking like Hammett--I'd never considered that, but it fits. For all the other characters in the book, I see them in my mind as Greenstreet, Lorre, Astor, etc. (even to the point of reciting dialogue in a Peter Lorre accent when no-one's around), but all the descriptions of Spade, who looks nothing like Bogart, made me form a different, amorphous mental image. I'll try picturing Hammett next time.

: has his story told in an extremely objective third person style that's
: very close to being the prose equivalent of a camera and tape recorder.

I'd forgotten how strict Hammett is with this. I think THE GLASS EYE is a little more so, but Hammett doesn't tell you, for example, that Spade calls someone who doesn't answer. He says Spade dials a number, listens for a length of time without saying anything, then hangs up. I don't think someone picked up and spoke without Spade saying a word.

Staying on the outside like that, never going into someone's mind or describing an emotion except through its physical manifestation, does get a bit strained. Spade's eyes glow yellow and green through the book, his face changes colour several times, and he often blinks sleepily or grins dreamily. Before reading the FALCON I'd just finished a big book done in a shifting first person point of view, with lots of emotions and thoughts, and the different was very striking.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 10 Sep 2004 EDT