Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler by Raymond Chandler
; Dimensions (in inches): 1.50 x 9.50 x 6.50
Publisher: Columbia University Press; 0 edition (October 15, 1981)
About the Author
Frank MacShane, the editor of these letters, is a literary biographer whose works include The Life of Raymond Chandler and The Life of John O'Hara. He has long had a special interest in encouraging the development of young writers, and is a professor in the Writing Division at the School of the Arts, Columbia University.
"I don't know why the hell I write so many letters," Raymond Chandler once mused to a correspondent. "I guess my mind is just to active for its own good." In the seven novels from The Big Sleep (1939) to Playback (1958) and in a handful of short stories, Raymond Chandler recorded a vision of Southern California life sparked by acerbic observations on every level of coast society, from drug dealers and crooked cops to heiresses. But Chandler's gifts of observation and analysis extended well past the streets, alleyways, roadhouses, and stately homes that made up the world of his detective-hero Phillip Marlowe. Brought together in this volume are some of the hundreds of letters Chandler wrote-many of them composed during long, insomniac nights. Chandler commented on all that he saw around him, from his own personal foibles, to the works of his contemporaries Ernest Hemingway and Edmund Wilson, to education, English society, and world events. Acute, sometimes impassioned, often witty, the Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler contains lively anecdotes of Hollywood, critical dissections of his fellow writers of detective fiction, lengthy discussions of the art of writing and of his own fiction, and, above all, amused, sometimes outraged glimpses of the Southern California society that was his inspiration. Chandler once wrote that "in letters I sometimes seem to have been more penetrating than in any other kind of writing." But his letters could also be combative, as when he wrote to an editor at the Atlantic that "when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I intend that it should stay split," or dismissive, as when he said of James M. Cain that "everything he writes smells like a billy goat." He could also be painfully revealing, as when he wrote of his despair over the death of his wife. "It was my great and now useless regret," Chandler confessed, "that I never wrote anything really worthy her attention, no book that I could dedicate to her." Lively, entertaining, and sometimes touching, these letters fully present for the first time the complex sensibilities of a man who was one of America's greatest writers of detective novels, and one of its most astute observers.
Inside the Mind of an Original, October 19, 2002
from Burbank, CA USA
Raymond Chandler died 43 years ago, yet the seven novels he wrote have ALL been in print since their original publication. Why? Because Chandler was a first-rate prose stylist who took the hard-boiled detective novel places it had never been before...and has seldom been since. THE SELECTED LETTERS OF RAYMOND CHANDLER is for anyone who loves THE BIG SLEEP, FAREWELL MY LOVELY and all the rest. It gives us a chance to get inside Chandler's head, to listen to him expound on Hollywood, the art of writing, the publishing business, the agony of seeing a wife die a slow death. Like Sam Clemens, Chandler wrote a good many letters. And like that other great American original, not all the letters are memorable, but a LOT of them have a snap and bite that still resonate a half century later. For example: "Television is really what we've been looking for all our lives. It took a certain mount of effort to go to the movies. Somebody had to stay with the kids. You had to get the car out of the garage. That was hard work. And you had to drive and park. Sometimes you had to walk as much as half a block to the theater. Then people with big fat heads would sit in front of you and make you nervous. Reading took less physical effort, but you had to concentrate a little, even when you were reading a mystery...And every once in awhile you were apt to trip over a three-syllable word. That was pretty hard on the brain.... But television's perfect. You turn a few knobs, a few of those mechanical adjustments at which the higher apes are so proficient, and lean back and drain your mind of all thought. And there you are watching the bubbles in the primieval ooze. You don't have to concentrate. You don't have to react. You don't have to remember. You don't miss your brain because you don't need it. Your heart and liver and lungs continue to function normally. Apart from that, all is peace and quiet...And if some nasty-minded person comes along and says you look more like a fly on a can of garbage, pay him no mind. He probably hasn't got the price of a television set." Like I said. Chandler was one of a kind. Writing letters or writing novels.