Wednesday, October 13, 2004

About Raymond Chandler. He's my absolute favorite fiction writer, as I believe I've mentioned. But now I shall share two excerpts of his writing in an attempt to illustrate just why I adore his writing:
"I went out to the kitchen to make coffee--yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling, hot, ruthless, depraved. The lifeblood of tired men." --The Long Goodbye
Isn't that the most perfect description of good coffee? Not the kind of pretentious and overdressed coffee we get at places like Starbucks, but the kind my grandparents drank on the farm. That's my most-favorite bit of Chandler writing, and it's pretty indicative of his style. But here's a longer excerpt that I like a lot as well:
"I had been stalking the bluebottle fly for five minutes, waiting for him to sit
down. He didn't want to sit down. He just wanted to do wing-overs and sing the
prologue to Pagliacci. I had the fly swatter poised in midair and I was
all set. There was a patch of bright sunlight on the corner of the desk and I
knew that sooner or later that was where he was going to light. But when he did,
I didn't even see him at first. The buzzing stopped and there he was. And then
the phone rang.

"I reached for it inch by inch with a slow and patient
left hand. I lifted the phone slowly and spoke into it softly: 'Hold the line a
moment, please.'

"I laid the phone down gently on the brown blotter. He
was still there, shining and blue-green and full of sin. I took a deep breath
and swung. What was left of him sailed halfway across the room and dropped to
the carpet. I went over an dpicked him up by his good wing and dropped him into
the wastebasket.

"'Thanks for waiting,' I said into the phone."
--The Little Sister
I like Chandler for his oddly perfect word choices. He uses words in ways I wouldn't think of, but they come out making perfect sense. Like saying the fly was "full of sin"--he could have said the fly was taunting Marlowe or something more mundane and usual. But no, not Chandler. And with the coffee quotation, he uses words like "ruthless" and "depraved"--not words I'd think to use to describe coffee, yet they feel oddly perfect. Do you kind of see what I mean?

If I ever tried to write like that, it would come out corny and forced, fake and overdone. But for Raymond Chandler, it works to perfection.

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