bogarting the big sleep

two words: marlowe neophyte

I am thoroughly initiated.  Chandler had me at clock socks and ‘Victorian hypocrisy’ p.14.

As for Philip Marlowe, I love that drunken misogynistic homophobic philandering shamus like a woman loves a project. He sling-slanged his way right into my heart. His combination of inmate charm and desperate need for a home-cooked meal and warm bath is irresistible; he is the male equivalent of the hooker with a heart of gold. He is the knight who tossed his armour, now he protects us from ourselves with his  scoundrel smarts and peculiar but incorruptible code of honour, asking only for whiskey and an ice-cold kiss in return.

In all seriousness, this novel is written by a man for men, but the rest of us can get in on the joke.  It reads like a brilliant screenplay,

-She has a beautiful little body, hasn’t she?
-You ought to see mine.
-Can it be arranged?
-You’re as cold-blooded a beast as I ever met, Marlowe. Or can I call you Phil?
-You can call me Vivian
-Thanks, Mrs. Regan.
-Oh go to hell, Marlowe p.54

with equally brilliant snippets of prose,

It was about 10:30 when the little yellow-sashed Mexican orchestra got tired of playing a low-voiced prettied-up rumba that nobody was dancing to. The gourd player rubbed his finger tips together as if they were sore and got a cigarette to his mouth almost with the same movement. The other four with a timed simultaneous stoop, reached under their chairs for glasses from which they sipped, smacking their lips and smacking their eyes. Tequila their manner said. It was probably mineral water. The pretense was as wasted as the music. Nobody was looking at them. p.116

The novel is fast-paced and witty,  and as full of twists and suspense as it is of cigarette-butts and empty highballs. It’s heavy on caricatures and light on consequence: a great toilet read, but one you want to hang on to. It is as disposable as it is collectible.

bogart and bacall in the big sleep

The Big Sleep has wormed its way into my subconsciousness leaving me utterly conflicted, like a Lady Gaga song. I wish I could get it out of my head, that I could stop thinking and posing like I’m in a noir flick. Giggling femme fatales make me and Marlowe both ‘sick’, but goddamn they’ve got style! Their capers, like a grown woman thumb-sucking, are unforgettable, and try as you might, you just can’t get enough of them.

As for me? I’ll be snapping up any Marlowe that comes my way.  I am as sweet on Chandler as Owen was on Carmen. But look where that got him.

don’t smoke in bed-nina simone
telephone-lady gaga feat. beyoncé

the big sleep

The Big Sleep, (1939) -a wisp of a book compared to some of the heavies I’m reading- according to Wikipedia is a hardboiled whodunit starring Phillip Marlow, a no-nonsense detective once played by none other than Humphrey Bogart in the classic  1946  film noir adaptation. This little story has inspired the comic genius of the irrepressible Coen brothers in The Big Lebowski, 1998, and a 2007 (yet to be fulfilled?) collaboration between the legendary Frank Miller and Clive Owen, set to play the intrepid sleuth.

miller directs owen as marlowe (?)

I’m typically not a fan of detective stories, except maybe Sherlock Holmes since it’s so camp, can’t bear the suspense, but with credits like these I can’t go past The Big Sleep. So I’ll suffer the stomach churns and heightened paranoia for you, Raymond Chandler.

Besides, have I mentioned it’s a short book? I got some catchin’ up to do.


Though still a work in progress, here are the novels that I’ll be reading in 2011.

Struck through titles have been completed.
Bold titles are presently being read.
* indicates reread.

  1. 1984-1948-George Orwell
  2. The Adventures of Augie March-1953-Saul Bellow
  3. All The King’s Men-1946-Robert Penn Warren
  4. American Pastoral-1997-Philip Roth
  5. An American Tragedy-1925-Theodore Dreiser
  6. Animal Farm-1946-George Orwell*
  7. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret-1970-Judy Blume
  8. At Swim-Two-Birds-1938-Flann O’Brien
  9. Atonement-2002-Ian McEwan
  10. Beloved-1987-Toni Morrison*
  11. The Big Sleep-1939-Raymond Chandler
  12. The Blind Assassin-2000-Margaret Atwood
  13. Blood Meridian-1986-Cormac McCarthy
  14. Catch-22-1961-Joseph Heller
  15. The Catcher in the Rye-1951-J.D. Salinger*
  16. A Clockwork Orange-1963-Anthony Burgess
  17. The Corrections-2001-Jonathan Franzen
  18. The Death of the Heart-1958-Elizabeth Bowen
  19. The French Lieutenant’s Woman-1969-John Fowles
  20. Go Tell it on the Mountain-1953-James Baldwin
  21. The Grapes of Wrath-1939-John Steinbeck
  22. The Great Gatsby-1925-F. Scott Fitzgerald
  23. A Handful of Dust-1934-Evelyn Waugh
  24. The Heart is A Lonely Hunter-1940-Carson McCullers
  25. The Heart of the Matter-1948-Graham Greene
  26. Herzog-1964-Saul Bellow
  27. Housekeeping-1981-Marilynne Robinson
  28. I, Claudius-1934-Robert Graves
  29. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe-1950-C. S. Lewis
  30. Lolita-1955-Vladimir Nabokov*
  31. Lord of the Flies-1955-William Golding
  32. Lucky Jim-1954-Kingsley Amis
  33. The Man Who Loved Children-1940-Christina Stead
  34. Midnight’s Children-1981-Salman Rushdie
  35. Mrs. Dalloway-1925-Virginia Woolf
  36. Naked Lunch-1959-William Burroughs
  37. Never Let Me Go-2005-Kazuo Ishiguro
  38. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-1962-Ken Kesey
  39. The Painted Bird-1965-Jerzy Kosinski
  40. A Passage to India-1924-E. M. Forster
  41. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie-1961-Muriel Sparks
  42. Snow Crash-1992-Neal Stephenson
  43. The Sound and the Fury-1929-William Faulkner
  44. The Sun Also Rises-1926-Ernest Hemingway
  45. Super Sad True Love Story-2010-Gary Shteyngart
  46. Things Fall Apart-1959-Chinua Achebe*
  47. To the Lighthouse-1927-Virginia Woolf
  48. Ubik-1969-Phillip Dick
  49. Ulysses-1922-James Joyce
  50. Under The Net-1954-Iris Murdoch
  51. Under The Volcano-1947-Malcolm Lowry
  52. Watchmen-1986-Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons*
  53. White Teeth-2000-Zadie Smith*
  54. Wide Sargasso Sea-1966-Jean Rhys*