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Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: Farewell, My Lovely (1940) by Raymond Chandler

Book Review:
 Farewell, My Lovely (1940)
by Raymond Chandler

   Wow, I slipped right into the DM's of 1940s literature without even knowing it.  It seems like just yesterday I was finishing up the 1920s.  Some of the temporal confusion is a result of listening or reading major works well after they would occur under some kind of loose chronological order.  Looking at decades of literature in the twentieth century, 1900-1910 is basically a continuation of the Victorian/Edwardian continuum. 1910-1920 is dominated by the experience of World War I, and the impact of that experience on "serious" fiction.  Both the 1920s and 1930s are alike, with literary trends from the 1910-1920 period continuing through to the end of the 1930s, and presumably up until World War II, with another radical fissure after that, similar to the disruption caused by World War I in literature.

  Farewell, My Lovely was Raymond Chandler's second Phillip Marlowe novel, after the popular and critical success of The Big Sleep.  You can feel the success of The Big Sleep percolating through the text of Farewell, My Lovely.  Where The Big Sleep obscured the literary pretensions of Chandler's "detective fiction," Farewell, My Lovely positively embraces it, with the character of Phillip Marlowe making MULTIPLE Shakespeare references and calling one police officer "Hemingway" because of his terseness.  I think you could make a compelling argument that The Big Sleep is the superior work because it lacks the wry knowingness and Shakespeare references, but for people who grew up on Coen Brothers films like Blood Simple and The Big Lebowski, Farewell, My Lovely is a more appropriate point of reference than The Big Sleep, let alone The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.

  As is the case in almost all detective fiction, the "city"and surrounding locales are often more vibrant than the dialogue of the characters. Los Angeles is as much a star as Phillip Marlowe, specifically pre-World War II Los Angeles, an entirely different place than what would emerge after World War II.

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