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Old 05-20-2013, 02:16 PM   #3
desertblues
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I must admit that I was in two minds about this book,but there is more in it than meets the eye.

It isn't the easiest book to read, not in the least through the language Chandler uses. The artificial constructed sentences describe the atmosphere, appearances and emotions. In fact, somewhat like a story board, for a film. In all honesty: this irritated me severely. But on the other hand, Chandlers writing style forced me to a closer, a slower paced reading, which had the effect of drawing me into the story, obviously.
Spoiler:
'She gave me one of those smiles the lips have forgotten before they reach the eyes'(page 50)

'an old and obviously dying man watched us come with black eyes from which all fire had died long ago, but which still had the coal-black directness of the eyes in the portrait that hung above the mantel in the hail. The rest of his face was a leaden mask, with the bloodless lips and the sharp nose and the sunken temples and the outward-turning earlobes of approaching dissolution. His long narrow body was wrapped—in that heat—in a traveling rug and a faded red bathrobe. His thin claw-like hands were folded loosely on the rug, purple-nailed. A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock.'(page 9)

'She tried to keep a cute little smile on her face but her face was too tired to be bothered. It kept going blank on her. The smile would wash off like water off sand'(page 53)

'I went back to the office and sat in my swivel chair and tried to catch up on my foot-dangling'(page 98)

'hard high October moon that lost itself in the top layers of a beach fog.'(page 100)
On the surface the theme of the book is the ancient battle between good and evil. The good represented by the cynical detective Philip Marlowe, who seems to be the only person with morals and values in a corrupt world. It turns this though man into a Don Quichote; fighting the windmills. Or so it seems.
The evil is in the family of General Sternwood, in Carmen, the younger daughter, who does nasty things. She gets this compulsion when she is thwarted. And she gets away with it.
Spoiler:
'she showed me all her sharp little teeth and brought the gun up and started to hiss.
I stopped dead, the sump water stagnant and stinking at my back. 'Stand there, you son of a bitch,” she said. The gun pointed at my chest. Her hand seemed to be quite steady. The hissing sound grew louder and her face had the scraped bone look. Aged, deteriorated, become animal, and not a nice animal.
I laughed at her. I started to walk towards her. I saw her small finger tighten on the trigger and grow white at the tip. I was about six feet away from her when she started to shoot.'(page 166/7).
Her sister Vivian, who should have known better, covers for her as if she is an irresponsible child. It might be that Carmen has a disorder, but she literal gets away with murder.
Spoiler:
"'So you let her run around loose,” I said, “getting into other jams.”
“I was playing for time. Just for time. I played the wrong way, of course. I thought she might even forget it herself. I’ve heard they do forget what happens in those fits. Maybe she has forgotten it' (page 173).
On second thought, the theme of the book isn't between good and evil, but between evil and less evil. For in the end, the hero of the story becomes part of the corrupt society 'the great nastiness' himself.
Spoiler:
'What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now'(174)
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