American people — to answer this qnestion.rnDraw ing npon classical republicanrnw isdoni, he offers a rep] that is as prudentrnin counsel as it is disturbing in diagnosis:rnC)ul- when the boch’ of the peoplernas a w hole has awakened to tlic full extentrnof die usurpations and injustices perpetratedrnamong them does armed resistancernbecome an thing more than suicidalrnniarhrdoin. hi a hmc when sheep-likerncontentment and dependence on die totalrnstate are matched h a willfid blindnessrnliefore eroded liberties, ue need tornadmit that we are nowhere near thatrnpoint, and wc must concentrate insteadrnupon educating and forging links withrnour fellow cihzens, persuading the openrnminds among us, and moinitiug challengesrnin the eoiu’ts to laws that deu’ ourrnconshtutional liberties.rnScott J.ahti writes from Colorado.rnThe Boys in thernBack Roomrnby J.O. TaternSelected Letters ofrnDashiell Hanimett, 1921-1960rnedited h Richard InymanrnwitIi]iilieW.RircttrnWashington, D.C.: Counterpoint;rn(Wl pp., $40.00rnThe Raymond Chandler Papers:rnSelected Letters and Noiifietion,rn1909-1959rnedited by Tom Hinevrnand Frank MacShanern e i r York: Atlantic Monthlv Press;rn267 pp., $25.00rnIf ()u are looking for liferar reflectionsrnor informahon about the nitentions ofrnthe author ol Red llarxest, ihe MaltesernFalcon, and ihe Class Key, forget aboutrnit. There is i^reeious little of that inrnDashiell Hammett’s letters. If ‘oii arernlooking for insight into the character ofrnthe enigmatic Dashiell llammett, ‘ourn\()n’t find much of that, either. And ifrn()n arc looking for a good read — wit,rnwriting, trutlis —then ou will find thernletters of Dashiell liaunuett about twornegg rolls short of a pn pu platter.rnThese letters are mosrt innocuous —rngossipy, affectionate, sometimes rnefulKrnfnnn. But there is no spark that can kindlernthem into something bevond diemsehes.rnHammett seems to have beenrnhapp ouK’ in some sort of marhrdom,rnjoining the .Armv again at the age of 48rnand serving niostK’ as a journalist in thernAleutians, or gouig to jail because hernbucked authorih’ during die McCarthyrnepisode. His is a sad stor, mosdv aboutrnboredom and writer’s block and alcoholismrnand sexual chaos, but nothingrnmakes it an interesting one. Aetuallv, it isrnwhen Hammett himself is most interestedrnthat he is most boring. What elsernwould von expect from a comnumist?’rnIdeolog}- of his .sort required a lobotonnrnof a kind, and diat self-inflieted woundrnnia be w hat killed him as a writer.rnSure, a writer can write badK somehmes,rnbut diere are some aberrations thatrnindicate not ouK’ a tin ear, but a tin brain.rnHammett’s sermonettes on Marxism, addressedrnto his daughter, Marv, are appallingrnin riiemscKes and, as instructionrnto rile vonug, disgnshng—rather like thernbanal letters of the Rosenbergs. Therncombination of willed stupichtv andrnsmarniv eoniplacenev is ntterh repellent:rnOur aid to Ru.ssia is still beingrnslowed up bv pressure of diernCatholic Church, but Roosevelt’srnquotahon from the So iet Constihitionrnvesterdav to show that thevrnhave riie same sort of religious freedomrnas we uia’ do some goodrnriicre. It at least shows riiat hernhasn’t vet knuckled under to thernchurch as he did during die SpanishrnRevolution [October 1, 1941].rnWhen was the last time ou saw thatrnmail} fallacies in hvo sentences? GeorgernOrwell suggested that ainone who couldrnwrite such piffle was a parh’ hack and nornwriter at all. Only a decade before, Hammettrnhad immortali/cd himself; now, hernsounded like a crude propagandist. Thernstorv is notable, but that doesn’t makernreading it rewarding.rnOn the odicr hand, reading Chandlerrnis alw as rewarding, not so much for whatrnhe sas as for Hie \a lie sas it. C’handlerrnwas a writer widi his own sound, his ownrnrlivthm and phrasing. His letters are sornniueli fun Hiat I have somehmes dioughtrnthat riic’ are his best pages. Chandler’srnletters have been gathered before, in RaymondrnChandler Speaking (1962 andrn19/7), more extensivelv in MacShane’srnSelected Letters (1981), and sparsely in arnLibrarv’ of America edition (1995). Earlyrnworks were gadiered in Bruccoli’s ChandlerrnBefore Marlowe (1973), shil others mrnMacShane’s ‘Fhe Notebooks of RaymondrnChandler and English Summer by RaymondrnChandler (1976). What we havernhere is a diinned-out version of the 1981rncolleetiou with some additions, such asrnChandler’s hiriierto unpublished piecernon Luck Luciano, that do not representrnthe author at his best. To have all thernChandler there is, ou need to have allrnthe books cited. So there is a sense inrnwhich this latest collection is a disappointment.rnBut riiere is another sense —the sensernof reading itself—in which this collectionrnis delightful. Nothing else quiterncompares to Chandler on a riff: He knowsrnhow to build the rhythm and get to a cli-rnTelevision is realK what we’vernbeen looking for all our lives. Itrntook a certain amount of effort torngo to rile movies. Somebodv hadrnto sta’ with the kids. You had tornget riie ear out of die garage. Thatrnwas hard work. And von had to drivernand park. Soiiicrimes vou had tornwalk as far as half a block to riicrntheater. Then people with big fatrnheads would sit in front of vou andrnmake vou nervous. . . Radio was arnlot better, but there wasn’t anythingrnto look at. Your gaze wanderedrnaround the room and vou mightrnstart thinking of oriier things —rnriiiiigs vou didn’t want to thinkrnabout. You had to use a little imaginationrnto build yourself a picturernof what was going on just bv thernsound. But television’s perfect.rn’ou hirn a few knobs and leanrnback and drain vour mind of allrnthought. And there vou are watchingrnthe bubbles in the primevalrnooze. You don’t hav e to concentrate.rn o u don’t have to react. Yourndon’t have to remember. You don’trnmiss vour brain because vou don’trnneed it. Your heart and liver andrnlungs conhnue to fnncrion normal-rnIv. Apart from that all is peace andrnquiet. You are in poor man’s nirvana.rnAnd if some nastv-mindedrnperson comes along and sav s yournlook more like a flv on a can ofrngarbage, pav him no mind . . . justrnwho should one be rnad at anvvvay?rnDid vou riiink the adv ertising agen-rnNOVEMBER 2001/31rnrnrn