01 July 2012

The Big Sleepy

A few years ago John bought me these wonderful, leather-bound Penguin editions. I had read all but one of them and those six books are among the best and most enjoyable books I have ever read. So I thought it was time to take on the one volume that I hadn't read, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Not being able to bring myself to subject one of these beautiful editions to my less than delicate hands, I went to the public library and found a beat up old paperback edition to read.

I knew even before I started that The Big Sleep wasn't going to be my cup of tea. But, since so many you love the book and think that Chandler is a master at what he does, I at least thought that I could appreciate it for what it is. I was wrong. By page 94 (of 231) I was so bored (and annoyed) by all the sexy dames and the corny, clich├ęd, Cagney-like dialogue I couldn't imagine enduring one more minute of it.

What is worse is that my urge to check this one off my list was so strong that I kept forcing myself to plod through it at the expense of other more interesting books. So to save myself the boredom and free myself to read other things I put the library reading copy into the DNF (did not finish) pile. Meanwhile, I put the beautiful Bill Amberg edition back on my shelf next to the others. But in my mind I put the title in a new DNR (do not resuscitate) pile. I won't be giving this one a second go. I will never be in the mood for it.

Another book joining the DNF/DNR piles
After a run of good books recently, I was a little nonplussed that The Big Sleep wasn't the only book that was slowing my reading pace.  Although I found bits of Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther charming, it is more of a collection of vignettes than it is a novel and it just wasn't enough to keep my attention.

When the Forward is more like a Forewarned
I normally don't normally read forwards or prefaces and for good reason. As much as I tried, I could not get into Margaret Bonham's collection of short stories, The Casino. I fear it was the preface that did me in. It was written by Bonham's daughter Cary Bazalgette and told how Bonham was an unfeeling, neglectful, abandoning, selfish, self-involved mother. Normally this wouldn't have much of an effect on me but when slivers of the truth emerged in the stories I had a hard time having any sympathy for the some of the characters. I may return to this one at some point but no time soon.

Lucky me I finally finished Lucky Jim
Another "this should have been my thing" kind of book but my overall impression was ambivalence at best. I had even read half of this book many months ago and lost interest. When I picked it back up, I decided to start over. I enjoyed it slightly more, but not enough to care. Frankly, I think David Lodge does the comic academic novel better than Kingsley Amis, yet Lucky Jim is on the Modern Libraries list of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. Hmph.

Virago saves the day
I guess I could characterize this all as a reading slump. After all the Struthers and the Bonham should  have been right up my alley. But it didn't feel like a classic slump--the urge to read was too strong. The Janet Frame book I mentioned last week was part of pile of stuff that wasn't doing it for me. But I also have two or three started that just aren't going anywhere for me. After The Ladies of Lyndon, I had a strong urge for another Virago but was resisting picking up another one because I wanted to do a bit of clean-up by finishing all of the books in progress. When I realized the effect this was having on my urge to read I tossed them all aside in favor of The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins which I am loving. Thanks Virago.

When good trees go bad
Last Friday we had quite the storm in our neighborhood. I say our neighbhorhood because it really was a bit of a microburst that didn't seem to have much effect on adjacent neighborhoods or the rest of the city. Three doors down and across the street from us, one giant oak decided to attack two houses. Thakfully the big storm that hit the DC area this weekend didn't do too much in our neck of the woods.

Gratutitous Photos
More of John's garden...

That's Lucy in the background


  1. I've seen the film of The Big Sleep a couple of times, and although I love the atmosphere, I've never been able to make heads or tales of the plot. I have the book on my list to read, partly because sometimes I do like hard-boiled crime but also because I want to see if I can figure out what was going on in the movie!

    This weekend's storm hit Alexandria hard. I've only just gotten power back. 36 hours with no AC is 36 hours too many in this weather.

  2. Thoose penguins were special I d seen some in a shop cheap but they'd all gone when I went back to get some oh well sure I ll see some ,I was not fussed by the big sleep either when I read it just a little dated and ploddy at points ,all the best stu

  3. We got hit by the storm, too. Luckily the tree that fell only hit the driveway, and our power was only out for a day. Those photos of huge trees down are frightening.

  4. I found the movie version of The Big Sleep a lot of fun. Before watching it I'd read a little about it and the claim was that you really wouldn't be able to put all the pieces together but that the action moved along so that you didn't notice or care. And that was pretty much the way it played for me.

    And that writer claimed the novel was about the same. I haven't attempted the novel ...

  5. I just realized that Lucky Jim isn't on the ML100, it is Lord Jim. Quite a different kettle of fish.

  6. Amazing how the storms take out those big trees. Love the photo of the flower with bee on it. Love those bumble bees. The Big Sleep, have it in my Penguin collection, sometimes I think we are desensitized by the modern crime dramas that the older writings are hard to adjust too but not always the case, Will have to try it. It's winter here, so no storms at the moment. Pam

  7. I remember that one tree that stood right in front of your door. I bet you're glad you had it removed.

    I love the garden pics and those leather bound books are drool worthy. You say you got them from Penguin?


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