Sunday, May 3, 2015
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
A hardboiled private detective is disgusted by the depraved activities of the rich
Philip Marlowe takes pity on Terry Lennox, a drunk needing a ride home. Knowing he should walk away, he doesn’t, and provides assistance a few months later when Lennox is on the lam for the murder of his cheating wife. Once Lennox “commits suicide” in Mexico, Marlowe is warned off the case by representatives of powerful Angelenos, but will not comply. Later, he is hired by a beautiful woman to be the caretaker of her alcoholic author husband. Both husband and wife have a connection to the murdered woman. More characters meet a violent end with Marlowe just happening to be in the vicinity. There’s also a twist at the conclusion.
There’s something of a classical structure to this tale, as Marlowe minds his own business, yet still is visited three times by people warning him off the case. He doesn’t listen, but makes his own way. Marlowe is a truth teller, a misanthrope, outraged at society’s injustices. He’s also practically a socialist. Some pages in this novel are devoted to police brutality and how the police and the district attorney are in the pockets of the rich who run the town.
There’s a hallucinogenic quality to some of the scenes, with surreal dialogue, an example being the crazy drinking of the vodka gimlets with Mrs. Loring. Marlowe describes himself as “The pearl onion on the banana split.” This book gets a lot of energy from observing the human comedy, such as the dopey Ronald Reaganesque sheriff. Sexism and racism are flamboyantly present. This book felt qualitatively more literary than The Big Sleep – guess Chandler was hitting his groove, although the end was confusing, silly and not at all plausible. But isn’t that the point?