RARA-AVIS: Re: Chandler dissing Hammett?

From: JIM DOHERTY ( jimdohertyjr@yahoo.com)
Date: 20 Jan 2006


Re your comments below:

"In spite of the many kind words about Hammett in Chandler's famous 'Simple Art of Murder' essay, there was at least comment that made me think that Chandler didn't much care for Hammett's literary abilities."

Well, the line from TSAM respecting Hammett that I can recall almost word for word was:

"He did again and again what only the best writers can do. He wrote scenes that seemed to have never been written before."

I'd personally love it if everyone thought so little about MY writing abilities, and expressed their distaste in such terms.

I think you're mistaking Chandler's ambition to do BETTER than Hammett with disdain. He did lament that there were things "Hammett couldn't say or did not feel the need to say," and these "things" were what Chandler thought he could bring to the hard-boiled genre he'd grown to admire.

We all admire those who influence us, but we all have ambitions to do and be better than those who inspire us. Sinatra, for example, was a huge Bing Crosby fan, and his ambition (largely fulfilled) was to be bigger than Crosby. The Beatles were huge admirers of Elvis Presley, and sought to be bigger and better than the King. Their ambition did not diminish their admiration and respect for the accomplishments of their forebears, and neither, for all the arrogance he often displayed in his letters, did it for Chandler.


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