Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Raymond Chandler on chauffeurs

Back along the side of the house a chauffeur was washing off a Cadillac.”
Raymond Chandler, The High Window
“There were French doors at the back of the hall, beyond them a wide sweep of emerald grass to a white garage, in front of which a slim dark young chauffeur in shiny black leggings was dusting a maroon Packard convertible.”
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep 

I don't know that to make of this similarity of motif, but I envision new possibilities for Chandler parodists.
***
I don't think The High Window is as strong a book as The Big Sleep or The Long Goodbye and maybe not Farewell, My Lovely, either.  But I love how Chandler stops Philip Marlowe's introspection just before it veers into self-pity and instead turns it into a kind of wry celebration in this passage:

“I sat there holding the neck of the cool bottle and wondering how it would feel to be a homicide dick and find bodies lying around and not mind at all, not have to sneak out wiping doorknobs, not have to ponder how much I could tell without hurting a client and how little I could tell without too badly hurting myself. I decided I wouldn’t like it.”
© Peter Rozovsky 2012

Labels:

8 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Chandler uses chauffeurs a lot. I always thought of them as his symbol for people who had too much money; they didn't even drive themselves around. What else would they leave others to do for them?

February 08, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And he doesn't even show us the chauffeurs driving, just polishing cars.

February 08, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I think it's also because Chandler himself loved driving and continued to do so even when he became fairly well off and until he became quite ill. He had a certain amount of disdain for people who didn't drive for themselves. Rich or otherwise.

just polishing cars

Or standing around smoking and gabbing while waiting for their employers to exit the casino, country club, Long Island estate party, etc. etc. Car polishing is a pretty standard image of chauffeurs in the 1920s-1940s fiction that I've read (and films of the same decades).

Coincidentally, I'm reading a 1933 novel right now and was a bit surprised to read a passage that contained what the chauffeur (eyes carefully straight ahead) thought about his passengers.

It's always nice to come home to Chandler, isn't it? Even if The High Window is one of his lesser efforts.

February 08, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And he doesn't even show us the chauffeurs driving, just polishing cars.

I wonder if anyone has written a dissertation on Car Polishing: Auto Worship and the Motionless Man in the Interwar American Detective Story.

In re coming home to Chandler, he, Marlowe, or both seemed to be getting bored with the world in The High Window. I should count how many passages describe an event as happening "the same as yesterday." Also, I couldn't help comparing Marlowe's dealing with the beleaguered assistant Merle Davis in psychological terms with Ross Macdonald's wince-making know-it-all amateur Freudianism in The Galton Case.

Chandler's grasp of psychology is much more tentative and fumbling -- and all the more affecting, human-seeming, and easier to read -- than that of his successor (and, to some, improver), Macdonald. Of course, The Galton Case is the only Macdonald novel I've read, so I don't know representative it is of his work. The plotting is as good is any I've read in a crime novel, but I wish he'd never heard of Freud.

February 08, 2012  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I think "Man" needs to be changed to "Male" in that dissertation title. Can't you tinker with it a bit more to get "Gender" "Gaze" and "Labor" in there, too?

Re Macdonald's "amateur Freudianism." It only gets worse as the books go on from there. I have put off reading the last 2 Archers for this reason. I'm not sure which novel began this trend (it's prolly pretty easy to find out with an online search) but you might try going back to The Way Some People Die or even try the first Archer, The Moving Target. I know some people sneer at his early Chandleresque novels, but I like them a heck of a lot more than the late novels. Find a Victim is also good. And if you don't like The Chill I will give up on suggesting Macdonald books to you!

February 08, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I was thinking about getting "gendered space" in there.

Keep recommending Macdonald, if you like; you're not the only one who finally got me to read him. I've mentioned that both Declan Hughes and John Connolly included both Chander and Macdonald their list of top crime writers. One of them in particular (Connolly, I think) suggested that Macdonald perfected what Chandler had begun. I hope to hell he did not have the authors' psychological insights in mind when he said that.

February 08, 2012  
Anonymous John Hickman said...

If you pay attention to songwriters, many of them will use recurring motifs as well. Why songwriters rather than authors?

Songs are just a quicker example than reading several books ;) Plus, besides being a first-time author, I also am a lyricist myself.

February 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No reason an author should not use recurring motifs, of course. It's just that this one was especially noticeable.

In re songs and crime stories, I've made a number of posts about songs that tell crime stories. Have a look.

I've also just bought a book of stories based on classic rock and roll song titles/

February 10, 2012  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home