RARA-AVIS: Re: Chandler dissing Hammett?

From: mandy_keifetz ( mandy_keifetz@yahoo.com)
Date: 22 Jan 2006

It's been awhile since I've read all of The Simple Art of Murder (of course the delirious last two columns are framed on my wall, encoded in my DNA, inform everything about me, etc.) but it's my recollection that the essay happily and praisingly places our Dash in opposition to the neurasthenic mystery writers of the auld sod, folks whom Chandler felt were tossing off tales of crime that amounted to little more than drawing room farce. That said, the aforementioned delirious last two columns kick-off with "But all this (and Hammett too) is for me not quite enough." At which point, it has always seemed to me, he appears to argue that what is missing from Hammett is something, well, you know, holy. The last line in the original Atlantic Monthly piece -- and in the Saturday Review reprint, I think -- but not in any of the collections in my own mad library is, after all, "such is my faith."
(It's my faith too, natch; else I wouldn't be harping about it here.)

Personally, I don't agree with MacShane or -- am I misunderstanding this? -- you guys -- that Hammett's was the lesser gift. Certainly, Hammett didn't have Chandler's knack for comedic metaphor. (But who does? I noted that Roy Blount, Jr. offered that mantle to a British car writer a couple of months back. The example he gave -- something like "The 1981 DeLorean had an engine so weak it couldn't pull a hobo off your sister" -- was pretty damn good, though.) But whatever H-wood might've done to him, there's a less-than-'fragrant' edge of authenticity in Hammett that no one -- not even Chandler -- could miss.

Which brings me -- limpingly -- to the reverse engineering of Roger Wade. For sure, the L.A. of the time was rife with hard-drinking writers whom the movies were chewing up and spitting out at an alarming rate. I don't think we've yet mentioned William Faulkner. That boy could put it away and he must've been on the scene, since didn't he write the Hawks Big Sleep script?

But my point is that I'm betting any one of us on this list could invent an entire drunk blocked writer with a habit this very afternoon, based on, now wait for it, no one at all. And is that not a just-as-viable solution to this case?

Just a thought.



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