liigh—that is to say, in the best way to dornso—bv first aiming low. The storv ofrnRavmond Chandler’s life and literary careerrnis one of the most remarkable in thernhistor’ of American literature; andrnthough it is familiar, it is worth repeating.rnConceived in Laramie, Wyoming,rnand born in Chicago in 1888, RaymondrnThornton Chandler was soon exiled byrnhis parents’ divorce to Ireland and England.rnHis secondary education at DulwiehrnCollege, with its emphasis on Latinrnand Greek, marked him for life withrna keen sense of language and class.rnThough soon set up with a career in thernciil service. Chandler dumped his jobrnand tried to live as a literary bohemian—rnhis accomplishments of those days, suchrnas thes’ were, have been collected byrnMatthew Rruccoli in Chandler BeforernMarlowe (1973). Chandler’s literary aspiration,rnsense of exile, and ambivalencernbetween the bourgeois and the bohemian,rnwere alreadv in evidence in Bloomsbur-rnbefore World War LrnAfter returning to America, windingrnup in Los Angeles, and serving in thernCanadian arm in the war. Chandler beganrnto rise as an executi’e in the oil industrx.rnlie married Ciss Pascal, 17 yearsrnhis senior, after her divorce and hisrnmother’s death. The great crisis of hisrnlife came when he lost his lucrative jobrnduring the Depression, and decided torncommit himself to writing in his middlernage. He aimed high by aiming low whenrnhe accepted the demands of the marketplace:rnhe would write for Black Mask andrnDime Detecth’e, beginning in 1933. Hernwould write within the conxcntions ofrnthe hard-boiled school, but he wouldrnfind a wa- to elevate and transform thosernconx’cntions.rnSince many of Chandler’s stories ofrnthe 193()’s were subsequently “cannibalized”rnfor his novels, the editor of the Librar-rnof America’s Chandler set, FrankrnMacShane, has published those thatrnwere not later transmogrified. The bestrnof these stories show how Chandlerrnbrought poetry to the pulps, romance tornrealism, and literariness to popular entertainment.rnChandler’s three best storiesrnare ostensibh’ about pearls, and showrnthat before his novels he had alreadyrnmastered the art of transcending therngenre of the detective storv. “Goldfish”rn(1936) is a straightforward tough-guy in-rnestigation which at the end makes usrnwonder whether the pearls are fakes. Inrn”Red Wind” (1938), Chandler’s fullyrndeelopcd art is both melodramatic andrnself-referential, and the pearls are finallyrnfakes of fakes. “Peads Are a Nuisance”rn(1939) is Chandler’s most extravagantrnventure into what Keith Newlin hasrncalled “hard-boiled burlesque.” Thernfakes are real, and the self-mocking fakeryrnof the narrative is “real”—a parody ofrnin’estigations and languages, both cozyrnEnglish and tough American. Thern”pearls” that all the fuss is about arernHitehcockian Macguffins, for the wordrnpearl not only denotes five-point typernbut is also derived from the Latin perua,rnmeaning “ham,” Chandler thus slyly acknowledgedrnthat writing comes fromrnwriting, that writing is in some sensernabout its own composition, that he wasrnhamming it up, and that he owed somethingrnto Dashiell Hammett. The splitrnbetween the Anglo gent and the Americanrntough guy in “Pearls Are a Nuisance”rnreflected Chandler’s literary and socialrnrealities, and was incorporated in therndouble consciousness of Philip Marlowe,rnwho did not appear until Chandler’s firstrnnovel, T/zeB/gS/eep (1939).rnThe Marlowe novels were a big steprnup for Chandler, not only in termsrnof the extension of his aims, but alsorncommercially and literarily: Philip Marlowernfirst saw the light of day in hardbound,rnpublished by Knopf. The BigrnSleep, Farewell, My Lovely (1940), andrnThe High Window'{9’2) led directly tornHollywood, the big time and the bigrnbucks. Twice nominated for an AcademyrnAward, Chandler was not happy inrnHollywood, and took it for all he could.rnMacShane has included Chandler’s collaborationrnwith Billy Wilder, the screenplayrnadapted from James M. Cain’s DoublernIndemnity, but we should note thatrnChandler’s original screenplays for ThernBlue Dahlia and Playback have previouslyrnbeen published. MacShane has includedrnin this collection, however.rnChandler’s essay “Writers in Hollywood,”rnwhich still stands up very nicely.rnHe has included as well other essays andrn11 of his letters. The only question onerncan raise about MacShane’s choices, Irnthink, has to do with the space taken uprnby the collaborative and derivativernscreenplay. Eliminating it would havernmade room for 100 more pages of Chandler’srnfascinating letters. As it is, however,rnthe Library of America edition is arnhandsome and desered recognition ofrna compelling writer.rnOf course it was as a writer, not as arnhacker of detectixc yarns, that Chandlerrnwanted to be recognized. That is exactlyrnwhat so many of his letters are about, andrnindeed what his novels are crafted tornshow. Looking back at those novels today,rnwe can see perhaps better than everrnjust what it meant to stake a reputationrnon writing itself, on style, rather than onrnwhat that writing purports to represent.rnBut to see that means clearing away partialrntruths that, whatever their merit,rnlimit our vision of Chandler, his books,rnand their continuing life.rnOne such limiting truth is that Chandlerrnwas a regionalist—that he virtuallyrncreated Los Angeles. And of course wernremember the powerful sense of placernthat Chandler vividly projects. Nostalgiarnaddicts flock to such books as EdwardrnThorpe’s Chandlertown (1983) andrnWard and Silver’s Raymond Chandler’srnLos Angeles (1987) and even the “RaymondrnChandler Mystery Map” for thatrnvery reason. But the old Los Angeles isrnlong gone and was going even as Chandlerrnlimned it, as he emphasizes in ThernLittle Sister (1949). But going on and onrnabout the Santa Monica pier and thernBradbury Building only proves that whatrnChandler gave us was on the page andrnnot on the street, just as Faulkner’srnYoknapatawpha County was and is hisrnproperty—one not to be confused withrnLafayette County, Mississippi. Chandler’srnEl Lay is a literary/mythologicalrntrope, not a place, and the best map of itrnis provided by T.S. Eliot in The WasternLand, in which the Unreal City is figuredrnas a desert. Fisher Kings are not hard tornfind in Chandler’s pages, though theyrnmay not be easily identified in the LosrnAngeles White Pages.rnThat leads us to another and morernpowerful limiting truth: Chandler as arnwriter of quest romances or urban Gothics,rnin the main tradition of Americanrnliterature. Seen in this light, Marlowernhas something in common with NattyrnBumppo and Huck Finn and the frontiersman.rnAnd it is quite true that Chandlerrnfortified his novels with chivalric imagery.rnBut even here we must rememberrnthat Chandler’s romances were ironicrnones, with bitter and frustrating endings.rnMariowe finds no holy grail—usually hernfinds a dead sinner. Another limitationrnof the American romance model is thatrnChandler was himself not entirely anrnAmerican. The Long Goodbye (1954)rnhints at the international novel, just asrnChandler in his last days spent as muchrntime in England as he could.rnRaymond Chandler himself insistedrnMARCH 1996/31rnrnrn