Here's one example from The Big Sleep:
"I got back to the living room Ohls had the boy up on his feet. The boy stood glaring at him with sharp black eyes in a face as hard and white as cold mutton fat."
The article's author, William Marling, writes: "Perhaps the most literate hard-boiled novel ever written, Farewell explodes with metaphors and allusions. Their density is manifest on the first page." One nice touch: Marling sees in the tarantula/cake image I cited earlier this week an allusion to Great Expectations.
Farewell, My Lovely is home to one of the most celebrated Chandlerisms: "A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window," but I like this, from the novel's second page:
Off-the-wall descriptions are easy; "white explosions on the toes" is poetic, surprising, and a nice mood-setter for the violence that must follow in a hard-boiled novel.
The description moves from head to toe, reaching a rhythmic climax in the bit about the white explosions. How many shaggy borsalino hats have you seen? How many shoe ornaments have you seen described as explosions and how many explosions by their color? Is surprise the key to vivid description and successful metaphor?
"He was worth looking at. He wore a shaggy borsalino hat, a rough gray sports coat with white golf balls on it for buttons, a brown shirt, a yellow tie, pleated gray flannel slacks and alligator shoes with white explosions on the toes."© Peter Rozovsky 2009, 2011
Labels: Raymond Chandler