Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Quotable Chandler

There’s no point in my writing something big and splashy about today being Raymond Chandler’s 120 birthday (though he died in 1959), because I already tried to do something along those lines two years ago in The Rap Sheet. Instead, let me simply quote a few of my favorite Chandler lines, taken from a fine little book called Philip Marlowe’s Guide to Life (2005), edited by Martin Asher.
There was a sad fellow over on a bar stool talking to the bartender, who was polishing a glass and listening with that plastic smile people wear when they are trying not to scream. (The Long Goodbye)

It was a nice face, a face you get to like. Pretty, but not so pretty that you would have to wear brass knuckles every time you took it out. (Farewell, My Lovely)

“The first divorce is the only tough one. After that it’s merely a problem of mathematics.” (The Long Goodbye)

“Los Angeles was just a big dry sunny place with ugly homes and no style, but goodhearted and peaceful. It had the climate they just yap about now. People used to sleep out on porches. Little groups who thought they were intellectual used to call it the Athens of America. It wasn’t that either, but it wasn’t a neon-lighted slum either.” (The Little Sister)

I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. (Farewell, My Lovely)

The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips. (The Lady in the Lake)
And, of course, the best and perhaps most often quoted line Chandler ever got down on paper:
It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window. (Farewell, My Lovely)
It’s sentences like these that make this author’s books worth reading over and over again. Does anybody else have a favorite Chandlerism they’d like to share?

AND THERE’S MORE: In celebration of Chandler’s 120th, the Los Angeles Times’ Jacket Copy blog asked a number of people--among them Judith Freeman (author of The Long Embrace), Bobby McCue, manager of L.A.’s Mystery Bookstore, novelist Denise Hamilton, and blogger Sarah Weinman--to send their greetings to the late master. You can read all those here. At the Villa Rose’s Xavier Lechard has a few additional present suggestions here. And Peter Rozovsky checks world opinion toward Chandler at Detectives Beyond Borders.


Anonymous said...

"Dinner tasted like a discarded mail bag and was served to me by a waiter who looked as if he would slug me for a quarter, cut my throat for six bits, and bury me at sea in a barrel of concrete for a dollar and a half, plus sales tax."

August West said...

One of my favorites:

"From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

Keith Raffel said...

May I recommend The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved? BTW, August West's quote is one of my favorite's, too.

Dana King said...

August beat me to my favorite. My runner up isn't from his writing; it's from a comment he made when asked about writing for Hollywood. "Had I not been so good a writer, they would not have asked. had I been a better writer, I would not have gone."

Toby O'B said...

It took 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show' to turn me onto reading Chandler, not just watching the movies.

It happened when Lou Grant read this excerpt from 'The Red Wind':

"There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husband's necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge."

I love all the other examples which everybody shared as well....

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Ach! I can't believe I forget to include that fabulous "30 feet away" quote. Thanks for the reminder, August.


Anonymous said...

From chapter one of THE BIG SLEEP:

"I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it."

In one short sentence Chandler describes Marlowe perfectly.

Jeff Sherratt

Stuart Barnhill said...

One of my favorites by Chandler is:
" I knew one thing: as soon as anyone said you didn't need a gun, you'd better take one along that worked."

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the info on Raymond Chandler! Too Shy to Stop writer Peter Ricci just did a piece on Chandler's contributions to crime fiction. You can read the full article here.