February 28th, 2008

krazy koati

We was sailing along, peaceful and calm

I borrowed from the library an audio book adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. I do like mystery novels, although not really passionately, and this was the novel that made Philip Marlowe, and I really liked the old-time radio adaptation of Marlowe adventures. Plus, I can't listen to nothing but nonfiction all the time: I try too hard to absorb solid facts while driving, which is fine when it's a routine stretch of highway but kind of a bad habit when things are happening. And then I'll borrow books that are just far, far too long to hear in the three-week checkout period. Think how many miles you have to drive to hear to 26 compact discs.

This adaptation is a mere five cassettes, though I'm not enjoying it so much. I think the problem is it has Elliot Gould reading, and he's just too relaxed. Yes, I know Elliot Gould portrayed Philip Marlowe in 1973's The Long Goodbye, but that was only turned into a success when they stopped trying to say it was Philip Marlowe and said ``we meant it as satire, honest!'' instead. I suspect I'm also spoiled by the old-time radio show, which started out with a thundering ``From the pen of Raymond Chandler!'' and didn't let up for thirty minutes. I don't think I quite believed they were all Raymond Chandler stories, but they had a real snap and pacing to their storytelling, so that even when the plot didn't make sense -- and The Big Sleep is not noted for making sense -- you at least felt the story plunging forward.

I'm also struck by some of the little ways society changed from 1939 to today, like ... Marlowe leaving his car and taking the license holder with him. Huh? (I'm also shocked that characters -- or real people -- ever leave keys in their cars when not around the car.)

Trivia: The original certificate of incorporation for AT&T, filed with the state of New York on 28 February 1885, in declaring the company's purpose purpose, mentions ``telephone'' nowhere except in the company name. Source: Telephone: The First Hundred Years, John Brooks.

Currently Reading: The Day The Bubble Burst: A Social History of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Gordon Thomas, Max Morgan-Witts. Even from the early pages it's clearly a fascinating story of the events leading up to the great stock market collapse and I'm sure we've fixed all the problems of capitalism so we'll never see speculative follies like that ever again. And yet I'm struck by an early line describing the environs of Wall Street: ``In the side streets with their so-English names -- Nassau, Pearl, Water, Front, and South -- were also the offices of 15 safe-deposit companies, 20 cable and telegraph companies, 50 coal and iron companies, and hundreds of powerful industrial corporations.'' Is Nassau really an English name? I suppose it could be technically argued to be an English name in the end, but I'm going to have to think it over.