Saturday, January 17, 2015

We talked of Raymond Chandler

Writer Raymond Chandler.
In at least one earlier post I shared Margaret Atwood's poem, "In Love With Raymond Chandler" and I plan to share it again.  The mystery writer's name has come up in conversations over the past two weeks enough times that it seems to be telling me something.

The first mention was from my son about a highly literate friend who had just read "The Big Sleep" for the first time and wanted to find some worm hole that would deliver her to another era in which she could steal Chandler's yet-unpublished manuscripts.  The second exploration was with a long-time friend, also a Los Angeles native, about an earlier Los Angeles and Chandler, the lasting influence both have on our sensibilities, perhaps on our characters, and the no-longer mysterious way both have crept into most conversations we've ever had.

Yes, Chandler's fiction is mostly classified as pulp and genre-specific, which doesn't make it true.  My friend and I, both born near the end of the second World War, grew and evolved along with the city.  We each were related to the sort of crooked cops we've seen in "L.A. Confidential."  Our sentences collide and we start to hyper-ventilate over signature architecture like bungalow courts or Bunker Hill mansions converted to rooming houses.  They are familiar locations in film and fiction from writers such as Chandler, John Fante and Robert Towne.

Since this is where I was born, grew up and have spent most of my life, the first generation in my family to be an LA native, I don't know if other places have exerted a similar steely grip on the hearts of their children.  Do other regional writers hold citizens under comparable spells?  In spite of all that has been razed or replaced since Chandler painted Los Angeles with his, I believe, elegant hand, for some of us those sites, those years, will never be truly gone.  I don't expect the unindoctrinated ever to notice the sleight-of-hand at work along Hollywood Boulevard, how present the past is when one rides an elevator to the floor where Philip Marlowe had his office.  As with other extraordinary sights, one can't unsee the city as it used to be, always hoping for that Brigadoon moment along a street in Hollywood or Chinatown, hearing the traffic slow and thin, watching the skyline lower, while men in hats and women in dresses begin to populate the sidewalk.


Elizabeth said...

Wonderful post --

Marylinn Kelly said...

Elizabeth - Thank you. If a still-vital city can have a ghost aspect, LA does. I am happy to be haunted. xo