Readersforum's Blog

May 10, 2013

Literary Pets: The Cats, Dogs, and Birds Famous Authors Loved

William S. Burroughs and his cat Ginger in the backyard of his home in Lawrence, Kansas

William S. Burroughs and his cat Ginger in the backyard of his home in Lawrence, Kansas

By Maria Popova

Twain and Bambino, Browning and Flush, Dickens and Grip, Hemingway and Uncle Willie, and more.

The wonderful recent Lost Cat memoir, one of my favorite books of the past few years, reminded me of how central, yet often unsuspected, a role pets have played in famous authors’ lives throughout literary history.

Cats have inspired Joyce’s children’s books, T. S. Eliot’s poetry, Gay Talese’s portrait of New York, and various literary satire, while dogs have fueled centuries of literature, philosophy and psychology, interactive maps, and some of the New Yorker’s finest literature and art. Gathered here are some of literary history’s most moving accounts of famous writers’ love for their pets, culled from a wealth of letters, journals, and biographies.

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October 24, 2012

Philip Marlowe’s Bad Idea

Raymond Chandler (1888 – 1959)

On this day in 1958 Raymond Chandler began his last novel, the never-completed (by him) Poodle Springs. This was Chandler’s name for Palm Springs, where “every third elegant creature you see has at least one poodle,” and where Philip Marlowe thought he might settle down with his new wife, the socialite Linda Loring. Chandler lost interest after a few chapters; Marlowe probably would have too.

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October 23, 2012

Lemony Snicket interview

Daniel Handler is better known under his pen name Lemony Snicket. The author of the popular Unfortunate Series Of Events talks to Martin Chilton about the return of Lemony Snicket.

Daniel Handler is better known by his pen name Lemony Snicket. The 13-book runaway success story that was A Series Of Unfortunate Events ended in 2006 but Snicket is back.

All The Wrong Questions is Snicket’s first ‘authorised’ autobiographical account of his childhood and book one of the new series, a darkly comic noir thriller, is called Who Could That Be At This Hour?

Ah. How do you ask the author of All The Wrong Questions the right question?

Better to start simply. After the Gothic charm of Unfortunate Events, was it difficult writing noir? Snicket, who is based in San Francisco, says: “It was enjoyable to be back in the Snicket universe. I have been a fan of Gothic all my life and noir only more recently. I have been reading a lot of Charles Willeford [author of Miami Blues], Dashiell Hammett [The Maltese Falcon], Jim Thompson [The Killer Inside Me] and, of course, Raymond Chandler. After completing this book, my esteem for these celebrated writers in the genre just grew. I think Chandler is really at the top echelon of American literature.

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August 14, 2012

Banville revives detective Philip Marlowe

Filed under: Authors — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 12:15 pm

By Robert Dex

One of fiction’s most famous private detectives is being brought back in a new novel by Booker Prize winner John Banville.

The Irish novelist, who writes crime fiction under the name Benjamin Black, will write a novel featuring Raymond Chandler’s creation Philip Marlowe.

The novel, which will be set in the 1940s in the fictional Californian setting of Bay City, will be published next year.

 

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February 6, 2012

Chandler, Marlowe, The Big Sleep

Raymond Chandler (1888 - 1959)

On this day in 1939, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep was published. Chandler was fifty-one, an ex-oil company executive who had taken up writing at the age of forty-five after being fired for alcohol-inspired absenteeism. This was his first novel, and the first of seven featuring the ever-inimitable and much-copied Philip Marlowe.

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January 16, 2012

Raymond Chandler Hated Alfred Hitchcock: Letter Reveals A Battle Of Wits

The always-fascinating blog Letters of Note has another gem up today — a letter that deepens the battle of wits between two old greats, Raymond Chandler And Alfred Hitchcock.

“The Big Sleep” author and film noir influencer was hired to work on the screenplay for Hitchcock’s 1951 thriller, “Strangers on a Train,” a favorite here at HuffPost Culture. The story goes that Chandler had no patience for the script conferences (“god-awful jabber sessions,” according to Chandler) Hitchcock called for, which cramped his style. Chandler didn’t agree with the director’s approach, which he claimed prioritized aesthetic appeal over character development — Hitchcock envisioned a fantasy narrative, and Chandler demanded narrative logic. Relations continued to deteriorate between the two, and matters weren’t helped when Chandler called Hitchcock a “fat bastard.” Eventually, Hitchcock dismissed Chandler from the project, and while he’s still credited, the script was largely re-written by Czenzi Ormonde.

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December 17, 2011

“The Amateur Detective Just Won’t Do”: Raymond Chandler and British Detective Fiction

a tough critic

By Curtis Evans

In a three-part essay, I explore crime writer Raymond Chandler’s attitude toward the classical British detective novel.  Though Chandler, one of the major figures in the American hard-boiled mystery movement, commonly is portrayed as deeply hostile to classical British detection, the truth, I argue, is a rather more complex matter.
Reading Englishman Nicholas Blake’s mystery novel The Beast Must Die (1938) for the first time in 1950, the great American hard-boiled detective novelist Raymond Chandler was moved to comment (in a letter to future mystery critic James Sandoe) on his disappointment with the tale.  Chandler wrote that he initially had found the story “damn good and extremely well written.”  He went on to lament, however, the “devastating effect” on the tale “of the entrance of the detective, Nigel Strangeways, an amateur with wife tagging along.”
Chandler conceded that the “private eye”– the type of detective associated most prominently with his own work (and that of his contemporary Dashiell Hammett)–”admittedly is an exaggeration—a fantasy.”  Nevertheless, he asserted of the private eye that “at least he’s an exaggeration of the possible.”  Contrarily, Chandler declared, the “amateur gentleman who outthinks Scotland Yard is just plain silly.”  In fictional mystery, Chandler concluded peremptorily, “the amateur detective just won’t do.”
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November 27, 2011

Raymond Chandler’s Long Goodbye

Filed under: Today in Literature — Tags: , , , — Henry Greeff @ 6:10 am

Raymond Chandler (1888 - 1959)

On this day in 1953 Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye was published. Many say it is his best novel, and the biographers trace many connections to Chandler’s personal life, despite being told not to: “Yes, I am exactly like the characters in my books…. I am thirty-eight years old and have been for the last twenty years. I do not regard myself as a dead shot, but I am a pretty dangerous man with a wet towel.”

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October 24, 2011

Philip Marlowe’s Bad Idea


Raymond Chandler (1888 - 1959)

On this day in 1958 Raymond Chandler began his last novel, the never-completed (by him) Poodle Springs. This was Chandler’s name for Palm Springs, where “every third elegant creature you see has at least one poodle,” and where Philip Marlowe thought he might settle down with his new wife, the socialite Linda Loring. Chandler lost interest after a few chapters; Marlowe probably would have too.

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July 25, 2011

Partners in crime fiction

Thriller instinct ... Patrick Stewart and Alec Guinness in the 1979 TV adaptation of John Le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Photo: Everett Collection/Rex Features

Philip Marlowe, George Smiley, Nancy Drew, Count Fosco … detectives, spies and villains are among our best-loved fictional characters. As the crime-writing world comes together for its annual festival, top authors in the genre choose their favourites. But who is your most wanted?

Benjamin Black

The series of Parker books by Richard Stark – aka Donald Westlake – which began in the 1960s and ended with the author’s sudden death on the last day of 2008 are among the finest crime novels of the past 50 years. Parker – we do not learn his first name, if indeed he has one – is an elemental force, a Nietzschean Übermensch beyond good and evil as well as the long arm of the law. He has no past outside the books, and no life except the one that his woman, Clare, makes for him. He is a sort of marvellous machine, and utterly convincing.

When we first encountered him, in The Hunter, published in 1962, he was a bit of a thug, “big and shaggy, with flat square shoulders and arms too long in sleeves too short”, resembling the actor Jack Palance on whom Stark had modelled him. But as the series progressed he became leaner and smoother, a true professional, clinical, disinterested, ruthless, a man to see the job done and get away clean. The premise of nearly all the novels, however, is that something has gone wrong that Parker must fix, and will fix, no matter how many people have to be disposed of in the process. Not that Parker enjoys killing; in fact, he does his best to avoid it, since corpses make for a mess and clutter up the scene.

The books are all being republished by the admirable University of Chicago Press – it tickled Westlake that Parker should appear under an academic imprint – and among them are at least half a dozen masterpieces. They are intricately plotted, cool as burnished steel, exciting and intellectually satisfying.

Lee Child

My favourite crime series character? Instant temptation to name someone obscure, to prove I read more than you. Second temptation is to go full-on erudite, maybe asking whether someone from some 12th-century ballad isn’t really the finest ever . . . as if to say, hey, I might make my living selling paperbacks out of the drugstore rack, but really I’m a very serious person.

Third temptation is to pick someone from way back who created or defined the genre. But the problem with characters from way back is that they’re from, well, way back. Like the Model T Ford. It created and defined the automobile market. You want to drive one to work tomorrow? No, I thought not. You want something that built on its legacy and left it far behind.

Same for crime series characters. So, which one took crime fiction’s long, grand legacy, and respected it, and yet still came out with something fresh and new and significant? Martin Beck is the one. He exists in 10 1960s and 70s novels by the Swedish Marxist team of Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö. They did two things with Beck: they created the normal-cop-in-a-normal-city paradigm, the dour guy a little down on his luck; and they used a crime series explicitly as social critique. All was not well in Sweden, they thought, and they said so through accessible entertainment rather than political screeds.

And along the way they gave birth to a whole stream of successors. From the current Scandinavians to Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko to Ian Rankin’s John Rebus, they’re all Martin Beck’s grandchildren.

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