This is one of those songs that, ever since I found it many, many years ago, could set anything right with the force of its beauty and hope. It seems that even when a time comes that makes it hit too close to home, it can still do that.
So, I’ve been angry lately. In general, I think that it’s a time-wasting activity and not something you should carry around with you. But here’s what I’ve recently realized about anger: there are all different kinds and not all of it is bad. The kind that makes you jittery and upset and awake all night plotting to get revenge or beg for forgiveness - yeah, not good. You don’t want to live with that. Then there’s the anger that’s an honest expression of your emotions. That’s good, although only in limited amounts. If you let it linger, it will degrade into the first kind. But, beyond that, there’s an anger that you don’t even feel anymore. It’s just a fact, as a reflection of your experience and your belief in what’s right and what’s wrong. I think that’s a good anger. It defines who you are and who you don’t want to be. It’s not a heavy load you carry, but a mark on you. A tattoo that hurt like hell as it was applied but is there for a reason. As a reminder, a warning and a stroke of hope, all at once. It’s the difference between an emotion that you control or one which controls you. Keep that anger. It will make you better, and it will keep you on track.
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”—Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum (via liquidnight)
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does….
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series….
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
If you’ve never read any Chandler and only have time for one novel, it’s hard to go wrong with The Big Sleep.
There are also several short story collections, comprised from his early pulp work, and a couple collections of letters. If you get really involved, I would recommend all of these, because even if they are lacking as a formal body of work, there are wonderful Chandler lines and touches scattered throughout them all like gems.
Also, Chandler wrote screenplays. The most famous is Double Indemnity, which was written with director Billy Wilder, but has Chandler’s trademark wit and sharp dialogue all over it. He also wrote The Blue Dahlia, which suffers from lack of restraint and inferior production to the other film, but it’s still a good noir.
I’m honestly not a big fan of any of the film adaptations of Chandler’s books. Most of the 1940s ones are fun watches, but I don’t think any capture Chandler’s spark. Yes, even Hawks’s The Big Sleep. I like Bogey. I like Bacall, but not in this role. It’s just missing something essential the book has.
I’m sitting in a cafe in La Jolla, California, where Raymond Chandler lived and wrote towards the end of his life, finishing up my essay on him to post to my website. An old man in a tweed jacket walks up and sits directly beside me. He sets his paper coffee cup down on the table between us, and I see the barista obviously knows him and has marked his name in Sharpie on the cup - Ray.
When our final interview is over, I help Bacall up from her chair, and she walks with me to the door. “You haven’t told me a thing about you!” she says as I stand there with one foot over the threshold. She gives me a hug and a kiss and then issues one last lament: “I can never get a voice-over job. People say, ‘With your voice?’ I say, ‘Yes, with my voice.’ It’s all Bogie’s fault.” She leans forward and pokes a finger in my chest. “Remember what Bogie and my mother both used to say: ‘Character is the most important thing. All that matters is character!’ ”
“That was the great reality in psychological drama—what you’re calling film noir—that you could be involved emotionally but what you had to do, you had to do. It reflects the fact that there are so many facets in human beings… At that time, to myself, it was psychological and dramatic because it showed all these facets of human experience and conflict: that these women could be involved with their heart and yet could think with their minds.”—
I watched my wife die by half-inches and I wrote my best book in the agony of that knowledge, and yet I wrote it. I don’t know how. I used to shut myself up in my study and think myself into another world. It usually took an hour, at least. And then I went to work. But I always listened. And late at night I would lie on the eight-foot couch reading because I knew that around midnight she would come quietly in and that she would want a cup of tea, but would never ask for it. I always had to talk her into it. But I had to be there, since if I had been asleep, she wouldn’t have wakened me, and wouldn’t have had her tea.
Do you think I regret any of this? I’m proud of it. It was the supreme time of my life.
I got a new phone last month. I was finally able to afford a shiny new (refurbished) smart phone and retire my old, battered, socially-unacceptable flip phone.
The thing about that old phone, though, because of its relative technological antiquity, its data stays with it. To the grave, if you will. There’s no way to transfer all of the things I stored on it anyplace else. I had that phone for two years. That’s a lot of call records and text messages. They tell a story that’s now locked away and gone.
I saved the first text message he ever sent me. It was just after we had parted for an evening, the first evening we were out together, but not together. He kissed my cheek before I left, then texted me to apologize because it wasn’t that good. (He was wrong.)
It turned out that when I left, my companion and I ended up only a few blocks up the street, so I was still on the sidewalk, responding to that text, thrilled and excited, when he walked by. He came close to me, and I didn’t know what was going to happen but I was more than willing to find out.
Not quite two years later, and it’s all gone, without so much as a texted explanation. And the old phone is sitting alone in the cupboard reserved for things I don’t feel comfortable throwing away but which no longer have any use. That message is still there, a series of data bits now still and silent. Along with others I saved, and reread, and held like jewels. They’re there, but not, and they’re true, but not anymore. And there’s no one left but me to remember when they were.
I have a new phone now, and it remembers everything. Which means I’ll have to be pretty damn careful about what I let it learn. Maybe that means I’ve learned my lesson.
“On the whole, good and great fiction is not written by beautiful people who feel successful. It’s written by the person who is most overlooked, all their life, and who understands things about the human condition which is very different from that of the experience of the twenty-five year old part-time model. Every author has a professional deformity – club feet, an uncomfortable religious inheritance, short stature, or incurable alcoholism, take your pick. Writers are always outsiders, and our nearest kindred isn’t someone in Hollywood but the bag-lady who rootles through dustbins muttering to herself.”—Amanda Craig