Thursday, October 18, 2007

Chandler's Chip

[Raymond Chandler to the Editor of The Fortnightly Intruder*]

June 15, 1937.

Your essay on flower arrangement is priceless, as much so as the typography of your sheet, but to what audience in heaven's name do you address yourselves? You are precious, you write in a dead language, and in the delicate and occasionally sterile tones of the Eighteenth Century. You are of a pretty wit and a soothing yet deadly irony. Are there people who admire such fanciful tricks? I have lived in this city for some twenty-five years and now I find you, apparently also of its citizenery, dwelling with Chinese calm in a past that was even as improbable as the novels of Richardson. Occasionally, also, as dull.

Your little paper one receives with pleasure, and yet with a certain discomfort, like a voice from an ancient chimney on a gusty October night. One hears death in it, and is tired of hearing death in so many things. You are decadent in a environment which, for all its fancy pants, is still provincial. You have the deadly smoothness of an old pistol grip. . .

Who, except those by life already defeated and wasting in the twilight, has any taste for such writing as yours? I ask to know. Perhaps we are on the verge of a classical revival. God knows I am very tired of talking without moving my lips. But I'm a little afraid you are received too much with kindness, too little with understanding, that you come as nostalgia for the Age of Culture (whatever that is, and may it rot, if it must be called by that odious word) and that you are accepted with that bewildered desperation which the Ladies of the Friday Morning Club reserved for visiting English novelists of the tepid years before the war.

You too, Sirs, I should like to think of with gardenias in your morning coats, with grey-striped trousers of impeccable vicuna, with parted hair, and with soft birdsong of the Oxford close in your gentle throats. But I'm afraid you wear corduroy pants and talk the flat language of the dehydrated New Englander. It is almost certain to be so. This American mind has its peculiar theme. It acquires learning only by losing blood.

I wish you success--and can not, alas, predict it.
Sirs, Your Obedient Humble Servant,
R. C. Esqr.

*A bibliophile's magazine, edited by William K. Etter Jr. and published in Los Angeles.

-from The Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler edited by Frank Macshane (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981)

No comments: