The last time I had seen Dr. Cliff Harbour, we had spent time talking about the book I was writing as well as the book that he had written, John Dewey and the Future of Community College Education. During that visit, he insisted that I read The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. In fact, he opened the book to the first page and had me read the first couple paragraphs. He wanted to point it out, and what I noted while reading the book, was that Raymond Chandler sparingly used his words. Yet, he was able to elicit an emotion.
The Big Sleep is a fictional crime novel that starred Philip Marlowe. A concerned father who was being blackmailed for the actions of his young wild daughter hired Marlowe. Throughout this novel, a number of people are killed while Marlowe tries to figure out who is doing the blackmailing. Along the way, Marlowe solves the various murders as well as the blackmailing.
Although I had to adjust for the language of 1939, The Big Sleep was an easy, enjoyable read that had many twists and turns. The books spanned 32 chapters and 231 pages.
Chandler’s use of language had the greatest impression on me. You could tell that he thought about every single word. Here is an example from the first paragraph of section six:
“Rain filled the gutters and splashed knee-high off the sidewalk. Big cops in slickers that shone like gun barrels had a lot of fun carrying girls across the bad places. The rain drummed hard on the roof of the care and the burbank top began to leak. A pool of water formed on the floorboards for me to keep my feet in. It was too early in the fall for that kind of rain. I struggled into a trench coat and made a dash for the nearest drugstore and bought myself a pint of whiskey. Back in the car I used enough of it to keep warm and interested. I was long overparked, but the cops were too busy carrying girls and blowing whistles to bother about that.”
Once I had finished reading the book, I had immediately rented the movie. I had learned that there were two productions of the movie, 1946 with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and the 1978 version with Robert Mitchum and Joan Collins. I watched the Bogie and Bacall version.
I thought the film was well done and reflected the book. However, there were some significant differences between the book and the film. I later learned that this was in part due to the Hays Code, which restricted content of a sexual nature. The film also had a different ending. I preferred the book’s ending.
In the near future, I plan to also see the Mitchum and Collins version.
The Big Sleep was an enjoyable read. Since I do not read much fiction, I am easily entertained. I do want to thank Dr. Harbour for turning me on to this book. I am looking forward to reading the second half of this book, Farewell, My Lovely.
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