Friday, August 20, 2010

What book did I just finish? It's a mystery.

It appears that I'm not very good at this here "blogging" thing. No posts since June? and only 10 over 8 months? Blah! Given that I reserve my blogs for book reviews so the existence of a blog is predicated on my finishing a book; and for a while that didn't happen because I kept picking up super boring books. But I've actually finished a couple of books in the last month or so and not reviewed them at all. Now what were they?

The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

This is another one of those instances where somebody recommends I read something and I end up enjoying it very much (see The Shadow of the Wind). This recommendation took some convincing, not because I was hesitant about Chandler (I had not even heard of him previously) but because I was hesitant about the source of the recommendation. We have quite different tastes in literature, though apparently there is some crossover.

Some background on Chandler for those who don't know of him. He, along with Dashiell Hammett, perfected the genre of Noir fiction or hardboiled private detective stories. You've heard of film noir? The Maltese Falcon? Good. So now you know what we're dealing with here. Hopefully.

I'm actually hesitant about providing plot summaries; first because I'm talking about two separate novels, and second because they are so dang intricate that it's hard to know what details to include and what not to include without ruining the mystery. Well, I'll be brief and vague (two things I'm quite good at).

Our main character is Philip Marlowe, a tough private detective who is obviously not in it for the money, because there isn't any. Sometimes he's actually hired for a case, sometimes he just starts investigating out of sheer curiosity, sometimes he's literally pulled into a case against his will. Regardless of the situation Marlowe remains cool and collected, almost detached. Chandler achieves this attitude by telling the story from Marlowe's point of view and through a superb use of understatement.

Seriously, you should go find some Chandler novels and read them. If nothing else read them for Chandler's beautiful prose style. After reading his first novel he immediately catapulted into the ranks of Charles Dickens and Douglas Adams as my favorite stylists, and I actually detect some Chandlerian influence in Adams' Dirk Gently novels. Anyways, go read some. Now!

Oh and sorry for the terrible pun in the title.