|St. Raymond in a typical funny mood|
That's for Chandler the Writer - but Chandler the Critic is held in just as high an esteem, though his fame rests on a single work, his famous essay The Simple Art of Murder. I'd be a billionaire had I been paid a nickel each time I read or heard someone quoting approvingly from it - the passages about realism in fiction, the Venetian vase, and the not-too-fragrant world we live in being particularly popular. Wikipedia, always to be trusted to reflect the received wisdom of the day, calls it a "seminal piece of literary criticism" and goes on to put Chandler on the same foot as Mark Twain. Unlike Chandler's fiction the piece actually generated some heated response at the time and later but you won't find a mention of it on the Wikipedia page because as I said above Wikipedia always reflects the consensus - and said consensus is that Chandler was right, his critics were wrong, and he single-handedly destroyed the traditional mystery by showing how phony and clichéd it was. Ite missa est.
What are we to do then? Writing one more rebuttal, however well-argued and backed by evidence, will not suffice. We must let the books speak for themselves. As Golden Age mysteries are becoming widely available again and prove popular with readers, the old clichés will become ever harder to sustain, no matter how hard some desperate cases cling to them. We may never convince the noirheads, but the rest will hopefully realize that there is more to the traditional mystery than its caricature as being out of touch, artificial and boring. Crime, in its fictional form, is definitely not a simple art. It's time to move on from Raymond.
A rather harsh and thoroughly unfair - and thus exhilarating - review of The Big Sleep.