Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles

“Wonderful what Hollywood will do to a nobody. It will make a radiant glamour queen out of a drab little wench who ought to be ironing a truck driver’s shirts, a he-man hero with shining eyes and brilliant smile reeking of sexual charm out of some overgrown kid who was meant to go to work with a lunchbox.”
(from The Little Sister)

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Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles by Elizabeth Ward and Alain Silver takes us on a literary journey through LA with over 100 black and white photographs of various sites throughout the city alongside excerpts of Chandler’s work. From his descriptions and observations of Los Angeles, the author both loved and hated it, which is a battle I can definitely relate to. Having been to LA several times now, I can honestly say that while I like it so much more than I thought I would, I’m not sure that I could ever love it. The weather is perfect (monotonous, but still perfect) and people have lemon trees in their front yards, but underneath it all there is an emptiness that is hard to explain. If you want to understand that emptiness, simply pick up anything by Chandler because he writes about it so brilliantly. His writing on Los Angeles isn’t overly descriptive. Instead, he’s somehow able to give you a real feel for the place he’s referring to. As it says in the introduction of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles:

“His use of unusual similes has been copied by many and parodied by perhaps even more; but his descriptions still possess a brashness that is undeniably vivid. Because almond all of his narratives are in the first person, the landscape is always reflected in his protagonists’s eyes. Marlowe’s eyes seldom overlook the ironic or the absurd detail, no matter how serious the moment.”

While I really like the idea behind Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, overall the book kind of fell flat for me. Probably because the photos that go along with Chandler’s words are pretty lacking. This wasn’t the beautiful coffee table book I imagined it would be, so I thought I’d take a few of my favourite Chandler passages and place them alongside my own photographs from Los Angeles instead of showing you what the book looks like (you can still see it for yourself by signing it out from your local library).

“Real cities have something else, some individual bony structure under the muck. Los Angeles has Hollywood–and hates it. it fought to consider itself damn lucky. Without Hollywood it would be a mail order city. Everything in the catalogue you could get better somewhere else.”
(from The Little Sister)

hollywood-palm-trees-chandler

 

“I braked the car against the curb and switched the headlights off and sat with my hands on the wheel. Under the thinning fog the surf curled and creamed, almost without sound, like a thought trying to form itself on the edge of consciousness.”
(from The Big Sleep)

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“Around the curve the whole valley spread out before me. A thousand white houses built up and down the hills, ten thousand lighted windows and the stars hanging down over them politely, not getting too close…”
(from The High Window)

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