Kirk's Reviews > The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
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Aug 22, 08

bookshelves: sentimental-faves
Read in August, 2008

She was the first thing I saw when I walked into the bookstore. Such a looker I damn near tripped over a stack of calf-high hardbacks set next to a stand of morning papers.
"I'm sorry," she said. "We're not quite open yet."
"That's okay," I told her. "Neither are my eyes."
I could tell right away I wasn't going to win any hosannas by being a smart-aleck.
"I need a book," I continued by way of apology. "Something fun but dark. I'm looking at five hundred miles today, but I'm not in the mood for an epic. Noir, maybe. It takes a lot of plot to get through Tennessee."
She went to the shelves and started looking at the books. I was looking at her looking at the books. I'm pretty sure I had the better view.
"Try this." She handed me a trade paper---nothing flashy. Minimalist even. But I recognized it, and the title went down like a good steak. "You ever read it before?"
"The Big Sleep? Sure. It's been twenty years, though. I don't remember much."
"Literary hair of the dog," she nodded. "It should suit you. It's got a dead dirty books dealer, a nympho with a pistol, some scrape-ups, and a lot of snap-cracklin' wit. Maybe one or two too many jawbreakers, but there's no mush. My guess? You'll hit the FINIS before you make Cullman."
Something caught my eye. Outside, three cruts piling out of a red pickup. I thought about the night before, the money at the casino one interstate exit up, the deal that didn't go down so straight. I looked at my scraped knuckles and licked the cut in my gums. I hoped I made it to Cullman. Hell, I hoped I could make it to a last page.
"What about the sentences?" I asked.
"What about them? You start with the big letter and follow the rest to the dot at the end. That's all you need to know about sentences, Jack."
"I like mine short, but not stuttery. Any joe who speaks one-word ones is likely to get a smack upside the head from me. By the same token, I don't go for gabber.s Long, windy ones give me an ache. You know why? Because long sentences are a tough chew when you're sporting a busted rib or two."
She saw the cruts outside. They hadn't spotted me, but I wasn't lucky enough to stay the invisible joe indefinitely.
"You got a broken rib, do you?" She was watching the dufuses outside.
"Not right now, but something tell me I will before I get to Chapter 2." An idea came to mind. "Hey, how about you give a dying man his wish and read me a paragraph or two of this Chandler guy?"
She took the book back, not looking at it but looking at me, not a dab of fear in her eyes, but hard as a charcoal and twice as haughty. For a second I wondered what it would cost me for her and the book both, but what with the ride I was headed for, I didn't need any baggage.
She opened the book and purred out the antepenultimate paragraph. You know the one: the one that explains the title. The big sleep. It had the kind of sentences a man could die for. With my luck, I probably would.
"You better ring me up," I said. The cruts had spotted the bookstore and were headed for its door. They knew me too well.
"I'll pay cash," I told her. "Because neither of us has time for credit."
"If you ever get back to town, swing by. I stock noir like air. I'll hook you up."
"Sure. If I make it back. Maybe then I can swallow a longer paragraph."
I was on my way to head off the cruts when I nearly tripped again over the stack of hardbacks next to the morning papers.
"You sell many of these?" I asked.
"Not a one," she shrugged.
I looked at my name on the book jacket.
"Figures," I shrugged back.
I set it back on the stack---gently, because tossing it would've been ungentlemanly---and I stepped outside to meet my fate.
Damn if the little livro pusher didn't do me right. The Big Sleep turned out pretty durable, especially for a trade paper.
Just ask the first crut who came at me. He crumpled the second he took its spine upside the temple.
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Comments (showing 1-26)

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message 26: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Yup. Shelbyville is where my mom is from and where my great-grandmama lives. I love me some farmland. Plus there's a new Indian casino one exit up on I-74. You haven't lived until you've been serenaded with "Sweet Home Alabama" sung as "Sweet Home Indiana" across the slot machines. Tell Neil Young that a Hoosier man don't need him around....

message 25: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Whoa---we might be cousins.

message 24: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk I know exactly where Mechanic Street is. My family's farm is actually over by Marietta, but that might as well be Shelbyville. Very cool! There's a great indie bookstore on the Shelbyville square now: Three Sisters. How Chekovian!

message 23: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk I wish I'd known about it.... I was downtown over by the canal all day long.

message 22: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk We saw the gondolas or whatever they are, but I was with three other guys and the boats were a bit---um---cozy for us, so we just walked. I hadn't been downtown since I don't know when. But we had a good time, definitely.

My Sig-O and her kids saw the Bodies exhibit out in Kansas City when we were there this summer---they're still talking about it. (I was working; couldn't go).

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Kirk, I just started reading this, all because I saw your review. You didn't lead me astray. I'm loving it.

message 20: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk I'm glad you're enjoying it, ShellBell! It's definitely an entertaining read. I'm going to reread Farewell My Lovely as soon as school quits busting my chops.

message 19: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt This is one of the best reviews I've read on this site. I'm always impressed with folks who can emulate different literary styles. (It's a talent in which I'm sadly lacking.)

message 18: by Kirk (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kirk Hey, Matt---thanks for the compliment. I appreciate that! I only wish I had my own original style instead of being an emulator.

PS. I'm reading Hammet's Red Harvest at the moment. The plot twists are better than in The Big Sleep, imho.

message 17: by Matt (new) - rated it 5 stars

Matt I started reading Red Harvest once, but I didn't finish. Not because I didn't like it but because it was during one of those times where I didn't have a lot of time to read. I've been meaning to get back to it, since I really liked what I'd read of it (and I loved The Maltese Falcon).

I enjoy Chandler a little more, though, because of his style. (I read a customer review on Amazon where someone said that Hammett was the plot guy while Chandler was the stylist. That sounds about right.)

message 16: by Dave (new)

Dave Russell Now I know the plural of dufus.

message 15: by Michelle (new)

Michelle I think it's dufi.

message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim I'm so glad that people keep voting on this... I love re-reading it... ;)

Kirk, you are awesome.

message 13: by Etoilenoire (new) - added it

Etoilenoire Best review ever!

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

You need an award.

message 11: by Cloudhidden (new)

Cloudhidden Such a great review! Never expected to be entertained walking the review aisles. Thanks Kirk. I'll have to check out your master works. (BTW, my wife grew up right off 252 near Flat Rock.)

Sajko55 Awesome review! :)

Jakob Wilhardt I thoroughly enjoyed reading this review. The gift of emulating is nothing to be ashamed of. The essence of creativity is emulating different stuff you like and mixing it up to create something new.

message 8: by Emily (new) - added it

Emily I'm on chapter 4 of The Long Goodbye, so I updated my status and stumbled across this entertaining review. it brought to mind an Oscar Wilde quote- Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Bravo and thanks.

Carac Allison Very cool.

"For a second I wondered what it would cost me for her and the book both, but what with the ride I was headed for, I didn't need any baggage."



Chumpton I don't read reviews, but this one was great. Like a smooth whiskey in a rundown bar.

Jakob Fantastic! Nailed the tone of this great novel.

message 4: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike This is, probably, the most clever informal book review I have ever read. I typically invest time and thought into the reviews I post, but, lacking your creativity, Kirk, I stick to expository prose. Here's lookin' at you. (Yes, I know I am conflating actor and character, but it's the best I am capable of.)

Phyllis Here I was about to write a review in a similar vein and there's just no point. You killed it.

Susan This is awesome

Kathleen O'Nan Fantastic review, Kirk! I really enjoyed it! I'm about 2/3 of the way through The Big Sleep so I've read enough of it to really appreciate the humor of your remarks. Thanks for the fun and laughter.

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