Friday, July 10, 2009

Running on Fumes Part 1

There are a couple of places in The Long Goodbye where Marlowe has nothing to say, and Marlowe as narrator says just that--I let it ride...I didn't say anything at all. Other places where the hardboiled wisecrack is called for but passed over--as if Marlowe (or Chandler) was tired of the sound of his voice.

The similes are also less frequent. I just started rereading the middle novels--not sure how the the progression works--but between Big Sleep and Long Goodbye you can feel a difference in the rhythm. There are more similes per page in Sleep, making for a boom-boom-boom forties give-and-take--William Powell, or Bogey.

Long Goodbye is sick, sad and world weary. Chandler working on fumes. The movie was just right--Gould/Marlowe is tired in that I can't go on I'll go on way.

The color of stepped on gum
is the color of our times.
The light of our times is
the light in the 14th St.
subway at 2 a.m. The air
of our times is the air of the
Greyhound depot, Market
& Sixth. It is prime time. A passed
out sailor sits pitched
forward like a sack of laundry
in a plastic bucket seat
his forehead resting on
the movie of the week. The Long Goodbye.

Tom Clark

I'm trying to understand why that's so appealing. There's
something that Tom said once--we were talking about F.A
Nettelbeck, and Tom said that he writes like he just doesn't
care. I almost took it wrong, then understood--Nettelbeck
doesn't seem to care what the reader thinks--he seems
beyond career goals, proving a point, or doing the right thing...
I think the thing I hate most about contemporary writing
(when I'm hating contemporary writing) is the earnestness--
poets "care" too much. The caring disease seems to infect
all schools. The chips aren't allowed to fall, even (or especially)
in the most "avant" work.

A key word: Anymore. As in, "I just don't give a shit anymore",
or, "I can't go on anymore, I'll go on." (apologies to Beckett).
Why/how does that feeling of exhaustion--universal, open up the soul (ouch!),
somehow let the light in. And the word anymore, which has a sad
open-then-closed, three beat sound to it.

What I'm reading: Obviously Chandler, Tom Clark's blog
Beyond the Pale:, proofs of the
new Lethem novel.


  1. O,

    Know exactly what you mean. Tired. Can't go on. No, I guess I'll go on. Yet awhile longer. Maybe.

    Speaking of maybe, I guess maybe what I had in mind was that Nettelbeck poem in which... no, for that matter I guess I had in mind every Nettelbeck poem ever written. They're all very long goodbye. I like the little one about the "normal" guy who wants only to drive his car into a crowd of "normal" people, pure wish fulfillment. Then there's that curious "love" poem (written perhaps "to" the poet Flora Durham--you'll remember), in which the poet narrator, in abandoned remorse and agony and lust all at once as I recall, buries his face zestily in some soiled underpants, to show his love I guess. Now that would be an example of not caring what anyone thinks.

    Anyway, speaking of not caring about putting one's best crippled foot forward, noting that Chandler and Keats are your two fave writers, and that you appear to have Chandler pretty well covered (after all you live in his building), I thought I might help out with the other half, if not perhaps your better half, but putting up a couple of Keatstravaganzas at the top of my flagpole. Come visit and catch virtual t.b.

  2. ...And O, don't shoot me, but I am so swept away by your creative genius (read: bad attitude) I've just taken the liberty of adding your blog to the "select" link list at

    beyond the pale

    Come see your name lit up in bright (well, muted grey) lights.

  3. If I remember correctly, Flora Durham never wore underpants.

  4. Commenters like this will keep me out of the Quality Lit loop for at least two lifetimes.

    Tom--thanks for reading & for listing me. Guess I'm ready to go "public" with it. Used the first few posts to try and get my bearings--sort of pre grand opening. Well, maybe not grand...

    Have linked you up, too.

    Hello Nettelbeck! Will take your word re what was under Flora's jeans. Must say I wondered, back in the day.