The Big Sleep – Review – **
I think this might be the first book I’ve reviewed for the CBR that I haven’t actually enjoyed.* At all. And I was really hoping to, as I’m a huge fan of the mystery genre, Chistie and Doyle in particular.
Unfortunately, while the main mystery was somewhat intriguing, there wasn’t really much else for me to enjoy. I found it boring, and most of the similes laughable (the bad kind). The prose wasn’t good or original or magical enough to make the lack of any enjoyable or interesting characters worth suffering through.
But most of all, I didn’t like, nor was I interested in, any of the characters – Philip Marlowe was a dick (the bad kind), his client was a crank, his colleagues were personality-free, and the women. Oh, the women. There were three somewhat major female characters in The Big Sleep and not one of them was portrayed in an even slightly favourable light. I know a lot of classics from, well, any era prior to this one are written by and for the good old Boy’s Club, but there’s a difference between not having any interest in, or understanding of, women, and outright hate of them. Good grief, I’ve never read so much disdain in the description of a woman’s tiny, glistening, shark-like teeth before.
(And given all these other problems, I wasn’t feeling too keen on letting things like, “she had an intelligent Jewess face,” pass, regardless of the accepted cultural norms during Raymond Chandler’s tenure on Earth.)
Minutes before I finished the book I felt a huge wave of relief: 15 pages left to read and then I am free of Raymond Chandler’s miserable world with horrible people in it, forever.
I want to make it clear that I have no problem with the noir genre or grim material in general; but there has to be something in there for me, and I just found this book incredibly off-putting. I would also like to note that I am aware this was Chandler’s first novel, and would be happy to give The Long Goodbye or similar a chance if anyone would like to suggest an improvement in his later works.
I would also like to clarify that I am not dumping on those who consider this a classic. I’ve talked to live human people who are of this opinion, people I consider intelligent, and I guess your enjoyment of this book, more than some others, must depend on your circle of experience. For some people, Chandler’s descriptions might read as brilliantly, uncomfortably true, but for me…let’s just say I have never in my life met anyone who remotely resembled Carmen Sternwood, and I have a hard time even imagining anyone like her existing outside of either a mental institution, or a school for the developmentally disabled.
Some of it was quite funny, though. Even on purpose!
Cannonball Read: 43/52
(Cannonball Read V: 4/36)
*I mean, Accidental Billionaires was terrible, but at least it was entertaining. Survivor in Death and Aristotle and Poetic Justice were also pretty bad, though.
Posted on February 14, 2013, in 100 things in 1000 days, Book Reviews, Books, Cannonball Read 5 and tagged **, 100 things in 1000 days, mystery, noir, Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, unpopular opinions. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.