RARA-AVIS: Re:The Long Goodbye

From: Michael Sharp (msharp@binghamton.edu)
Date: 13 Jul 2008

  • Next message: jacquesdebierue: "RARA-AVIS: Re:The Long Goodbye"

    TLG is my favorite novel. Ever. Of All Time.

    Here is my theory of the detective novel, which will be cursorily dismissed by most of you all, perhaps for good reason, but I still believe it: With this novel, Chandler wrote the detective novel out of existence. He killed it. Drove a stake through its heart. The whole book is so backward-looking, so nostalgic, elegiac almost. It's as if standing before Marlowe at the end are only (to quote Marvell) "deserts of vast eternity." Bleakness. This expresses disillusionment in Marlowe, of course, but I think the idea that the good old days are permanently gone (and weren't always good) applies to the detective story genre as well. I don't think there have been any innovations in the detective novel since 1954. Change the gender of the detective, change the race, change the location of his stomping grounds - lots of variations, but Chandler seemed to be suggesting (and so far, not wrongly) that there was nowhere left to go, substantively. I mean, Marlowe gets what he wants (the girl, the guy) and can't stand either. The whole search has ended, the grail has been found ... and yet he's still in the Wasteland.

    The best crime fiction in the intervening 50+ years has taken the detective off-center or dispensed with him/her entirely. Most straight detective novels today are tired Ross Macdonald retreads, pastiches of plots and personas and patter that were cool in their day, but now feel more ornamental than authentic. There's lots of potential (perhaps infinite potential) in the "Ordinary (wo)man, extraordinary circumstances" novel (see Cornell Woolrich's work, or Christa Faust's
    "Money Shot" for one recent, decent example). But as for the straight-up detective novel ... a lot of competence and entertainment, but that's it.

    Happy to hear contrary opinions. All the best. Michael Sharp Pop Sensation - salmongutter.blogspot.com Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle - rexwordpuzzle.blogspot.com

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