RARA-AVIS: Chandler and Crissy and Philip and Robert

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@thrillingdetective.com)
Date: 18 Dec 2007

I hear there's recently been some sort of Holy Decree on the topic, but I don't think it's official until we see three puffs of smoke...

Jim wrote:

> Let's take that statement piece by piece. First of
> all, he asserts that Chandler saw Marlowe as a loser.
> Clearly Chandler did NOT. He saw Marlowe as "the best
> man in his world and a good enough man for any world,"
> as "a man fit for adventure," and as "the hero . . .
> everything."

Chandler also clearly referred to him as "Tarzan on a motor scooter." Does that sound like the best man in the world?

To me, that sounds like EVEN Chandler was sharp enough to realize the conflicts and ambiguities and flaws in the monster he'd unleashed. Certainly, the author's opinions about almost everything bounced back and forth in his writings -- both public and private. He'd argue up one day and down the next. He was alternately a raging egomaniac and a self-doubting, self-pitying petty-minded crank, with more issues than a newsstand, who married his mother. Or at least tried to.

(He was also a decorated war hero whose quiet bravery in battle reveals some loud-mouthed "tough guy" writers as the poseurs they always were.)

Which is why it's almost always safer to argue the art than the artist. As Lawrence Block (Hey! Aren't we supposed to be talking about him?) once said, "In the end it's what's on the page that counts -- not how or why it got there." That applies to movie screens too.

And judging from the result, I think Altman understood Chandler pretty well, and respected him at least well enough to disagree with him. All this wind and melodrama about Altman being "immoral" and burning in hell -- yeah, yeah, it's a joke -- seriously undermines some of the finer points (and some of them are very fine indeed) of your arguments.

I love Chandler's work as much as the next guy, and the implication that those who enjoyed Altman's "immoral" THE LONG GOODBYE are somehow lesser fans (or perhaps even "immoral" themselves) is unfortunate.

And now, speaking of Chandler, has anyone else here read THE LONG EMBRACE, the new book on that fun-lovin' Ray and his beloved Cissy?

Kevin Burton Smith www.thrillingdetective.com

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