Monday November 30th, 2009

“The boy is bothered.”

chandler-with-catTo accompany this week’s review of Thomas Mallon’s book about letters, each day the blog will feature two letters. We start with this, sent by Raymond Chandler to Hamish Hamilton, Chandler’s British publisher, on August 10, 1948. It’s taken from Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler edited by Frank MacShane.

Dear Jamie:

Hardly necessary to tell you that I am typing this myself, no longer have a secretary, just didn’t have a full time job for one unless working in Hollywood. I shall probably be sorry, but can’t help it. Have to retrench a bit anyhow. Things are awful over here as far as price is concerned.

The trouble with the Marlowe character is he has been written and talked about too much. He’s getting self-conscious, trying to live up to his reputation among the quasi-intellectuals. The boy is bothered. He used to be able to spit and throw the ball hard and talk out of the corner of his mouth.

I am trying desperately to finish The Little Sister, and should have a rough draft done almost any day I can get up enough steam. The fact is, however, that there is nothing in it but style and dialogue and characters. The plot creaks like a broken shutter in an October wind.

Am reading [Graham Greene’s] The Heart of the Matter, a chapter at a time. It has everything in it that makes literature except verve, wit, gusto, music and magic; a cool and elegant set-piece, embalmed by Whispering Glades. There is more life in the worst chapter Dickens or Thackeray ever wrote, and they wrote some pretty awful chapters.

All the best,