The Long Hello

"Literature is news that stays news."
—Ezra Pound

Seeing Raymond Chandler published in series with Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor might give us pause. But not for long, for Raymond Chandler himself told us what to say on this occasion, writing the lines for that delectable secretary, Miss Vermilyea, in Chapter 11 of Playback (1958), as she encounters the detective/ narrator Philip Marlowe for the second time: "Well, well. Mr. Hard Guy in person. To what may we attribute this honor?" Since, as Marlowe puts it. Miss Vermilyea was quite a doll, I think we could and should specify to what we may attribute this honor.

Strictly speaking, the honor was earned in the only direct way that counts: Chandler has never been out of print and is widely read today in many languages. He is continually referred to as a standard reference, imitated ad infinitum, and is a constant presence in the mass media. All the Chandler movies are rebroadcast on cable—the ones that he wrote, the ones others did, and all the recreations and extrapolations. To say "film noir" is to conjure Chandler—"neo-noir" ditto. Without Chandler, the journalists would be without their catchphrases, "the mean streets," "The Big Sleep," "The Long Goodbye." Without Chandler, S.J. Perelman...

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