Sunday, March 9, 2008

Book Review: Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely (1940)

Farewell, My Lovely reminded me of Cornell Woolrich in that Raymond Chandler's plot is at least as ridiculous as the plot of any (famously ridiculous) Woolrich novel. What is remarkable is how differently Chandler and Woolrich deal with their own absurdities. The Woolrich strategy is to build a novel whose narrative drive is so intense that readers (hopefully) never notice the plot's defects. The Chandler strategy is just the opposite: His characters spend much of the novel sitting around and trying to puzzle out a plot that ultimately makes no sense. As far as plots go, then, Woolrich may be a more satisfying reading experience, but this is not say that Woolrich's novels are necessarily better than Chandler's. For Chandler, plot is secondary to the careful craft of his prose style and the development of Philip Marlowe's character--both of which make for rewarding reading. Grade: B

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