The Long Goodbye

Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye was my first dive into noir, but it was immediately familiar to me. I grew up with all kinds of pop culture references to old school gangsters and private detectives. Ann Patchett actually recommended this book when I read This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. She talks about Chandler’s chapter structure, so I was curious enough to read it right away.

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As soon as I started the first chapter, Marlowe’s dark voice echoed out like every private eye ever to grace the silver screen. This comes from a time when dick still meant detective, and gangsters used nicknames like “shyster” and “cheapie.”

I enjoyed this whodunit quite a bit, although the end got a bit twisted and confusing. It definitely came to a different conclusion than I had drawn, and the complications came after what I thought was the climax. It was kind of a strange roller coaster. That was probably the point, though–it just wasn’t near as succinct as what we are used to in today’s fiction.

Maybe I just need to try out a few more noir novels to figure out their structure. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

Contrary to the title, this isn’t actually a story about marriage at all. Rather, it is a collection of stories, about lots of things–marriage is only one of them.

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In this collection, one of my very favorite authors, Ann Patchett, shares pieces of her life–friends, family, loves and losses, books. It is a window into her mind.

I told you yesterday that I mostly find biographies boring. However, I love memoirs. I always find it interesting to hear first-person narratives about a person’s life, to hear them share the things that are most important to them, and the little details too. I like to know the things that made them them.

This is especially true of the authors I love. It helps me to understand their books, when I can go into their background, and hear what formed their psyche. Patchett talks a lot about her books and the path she took to write them:  her love of opera formed Bel Canto, a trip to Brazil inspired State of Wonder.  I got to hear about her friendship with Lucy Grealy, which will be helpful later, since I have not yet read Truth and Beauty.

It’s next to impossible to be unbiased in this review, because I love her work so much. There was no chance I wouldn’t love hearing something in her own voice. If you haven’t read anything by Ann Patchett, you should. My favorite is Bel Canto. I need to reread that soon, I think.

I hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend. You probably won’t see a post from me tomorrow as we are having company, but I’ll be back to our regular broadcasted program on Monday.

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If you wind up …

If you wind up boring yourself, you can pretty much bank on the fact that you’re going to bore your reader. I believe in keeping several plots going at once. The plot of a novel should be like walking down a busy city street: first there are all the other people around you, the dog walkers and the skateboarders, the couples fighting, the construction guys swearing and shouting, the pretty girl on teetering heels that causes those construction guys to turn around for a split second of silence. There are drivers hitting the brakes, diving birds slicing between buildings, and the sudden ominous clouds banking to the west. All manner of action and movement is rushing towards you and away. But that isn’t enough. You should also have the storefronts at street level, and the twenty stories of apartments full of people and their babies and their dreams. Below the street there should be infrastructure: water, sewer, electric. Maybe there’s a subway down there as well, and it’s full of people. For me, it took all of that to stay emotionally present for seven months of endless days. Many writers feel that plot is passé—they’re so over plot, who needs plot?—to which I say: Learn how to construct one first, and then feel free to reject it.

Ann Patchett, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage