Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Violence for the sake of...?

From: William Denton (
Date: 23 Mar 2005

There's one bit of accommodation to language restrictions that really clangs: in the scene in THE MALTESE FALCON where Hammet confronts Wilmer the gunsel in the hotel lobby:

# -----

The boy put down his paper quickly and faced Spade, staring at his necktie with bleak hazel eyes. The boy's small hands were spread flat over his belly. "Keep asking for it and you're going to get it," he said,
"plenty." His voice was low and flat and menacing. "I told you to shove off. Shove off."

Spade waited until a bespectacled pudgy man and thin-legged blonde girl had passed out of hearing. Then he chuckled and said: "That would go over big back on Seventh Avenue. But you're not in Romeville now. You're in my burg." He inhaled cigarette smoke and blew it out in a long pale cloud. "Well, where is he?"

The boy spoke two words, the first a short guttural verb, the second

"People lose teeth talking like that." Spade's voice was still amiable though his face had become wooden. "If you want to hang around you'll be polite."

The boy repeated his two words.

# -----

That's fourteen words to say "Fuck you." Hammett could have written this so that the phrase never arose, but as it is, it demands "Fuck you."

Notice the "bespectacled pudgy man and thin-legged blonde girl," though. A visiting businessman and a prostitute? Nice little bit of colour there.


William Denton : Toronto, Canada : : Caveat lector.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 23 Mar 2005 EST