Brian McDonald’s essay isn’t as good as some of the drunken writers he loves, but it’s not bad. Aside from Niven/Pournelle’s Inferno, I’m walking through Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, having been told by a friend, "I think it’s his best, but I don’t understand it. It’s too complicated." Well, no need to understand the whole when you get parts like this: "There was a girl beside him. Her hair was a lovely shade of dark red and she had a distant smile on her lips and over her shoulders she had a blue mink that almost made the Rolls-Royce look like just another automobile. It didn’t quite. Nothing can."
If I remember my Chandler, my favorite line from the Long Goodbye is Marlowe exclaiming "It's early and I'm full of no coffee."
That's a good line, but Chandler had so many good ones. "The minutes went by on toptoe, with their fingers to their lips." A different book, but a favorite image.
I went from Hammett to Chandler, then Chandler to Wodehouse, which was from detective to detective then from wordsmith to wordsmith, as my interest shifted from genre to the use of language. I think Chandler's use of language is surprisingly like that of Wodehouse.
Then, as soon as I was old enough to drink, I made it my goal to try the various cocktails mentioned in Chandler, which became a journey of a different sort. Oddly, I am sitting here typing this and neglecting my b&s, which was one of Bertie's drinks.
I have all three of them, H., C. & W., as well as Hemingway and Fitzgerald, also mentioned in that article, not only on my bookshelves, but also on my reading list for the Freshman English class I teach. The kids will choose to read read Fitzgerald, especially girls, who wish to read Gatsby, but not the others. I try, I really do, to make them try new old things. They are leery of detectives and do not "get" Wodehouse at all. Tomorrow is "talk about your book day", which is the blissful 75 minutes when I get to sit with that class and make them talk to me about the books they chose to read and which they will write about over the next couple of weeks. I may only keep teaching English for that day. I have more than 150 classical delights on that list and I let them surprise me with which of my darlings they chose to read. All too often, no one has ever made them read whole books before and those who have not are frequently surprised at the joy of reading to at least say they wish to read more. Maybe they are just being sweet at me. I am the most total sucker for students who tell me I change their lives.
Oddly, too, the author of that article mentions the $1 racks at the Strand, which store was where I bought most of my Hammett, Chandler and some of my Wodehouse. That article was full of pith and memory for me. Thank you.