December 16, 2017

Philip Marlowe's Bad Idea

On this day in 1958, Raymond Chandler began his last novel, the never-completed (by him) Poodle Springs. This was Chandler's name for Palm Springs, where "every third elegant creature you see has at least one poodle," and where Philip Marlowe had chosen to settle down with his new wife, the socialite Linda Loring. Chandler envisioned this unlikely scenario as "a running fight interspersed with amorous interludes," but he lost interest in the idea after a few chapters and set it aside. At this point Chandler was in the last stages of a five-year alcoholic tailspin brought on by the death of his own wife after thirty years of marriage, and not interested in much; in a few months he too was dead, at the age of seventy. The novel was completed by Robert B. Parker and published in 1989.

Marlowe shared a night with Loring in The Long Goodbye, and should have known better: "I watched the cab out of sight. I went back up the stairs and into the bedroom and pulled the bed to pieces and remade it. There was a long dark hair on one of the pillows. There was a lump of lead at the pit of my stomach...." Still, the hair which Linda Loring left on the pillow was not blonde:
    ...There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Room and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Proven├žal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them....

(The Long Goodbye)

According to Joyce Carol Oates, Marlowe the family man was doomed by genre-gender. In a 1995 essay in The New York Review of Books she wonders why love and kids won't stick to the gumshoe:
    While the romance genre, for women, is universally reviled, the mystery-detective genre, so transparently its equivalent for men, has long enjoyed a privileged cult status. What are the secret wishes this genre's elaborately contrived scenarios fulfill? What are its subterranean assumptions, its blood-beliefs? Who is the solitary hero-savior, bearer of sacred seed that never replicates itself in mere flesh? -- for detectives, of course, have no progeny.

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