I’m not sure why it took me this long to pick up a Raymond Chandler novel, but now that I’ve started I can’t stop. I’ve read three so far: The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and Farewell, My Lovely. I’d already seen film adaptations of them first, and maybe that’s why it took me so long to read Raymond Chandler’s books. I figured that they were just mystery novels, and didn’t see the point of reading them them if I already knew the endings.
But they’re really so much more than the plots, and, besides, the movie adaptation scramble up the plots anyway. The ’40s film noir versions especially, having to follow the way too strict rules of the Production Code, turn shady femme fatales into heroines and clean up scandalous story lines. It’s not the same thing at all.
When I watched those Humphrey Bogart/Dick Powell film versions I saw very good movies with Philip Marlowes who were a little too old. What I didn’t get out of the movies was Raymond Chandler’s writing: sharp and to the point, honest and funny. His Marlowe says things that they couldn’t say in ’40s films, and his Los Angeles is colorful and slightly on edge.
So far The Long Goodbye is my favorite Chandler book, and Robert Altman’s film version is my favorite Chandler adaptation. I saw the movie before reading the book, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect the way I read. I could never really picture Humphrey Bogart (too old) or Dick Powell (too Busby Berkeley, though surprisingly good) as Philip Marlowe, but Elliot Gould seemed just about the right age and just enough of a smart-ass to be convincing. Plus, by the time Altman made his adaptation in 1973, Raymond Chandler’s dialogue and plots were no longer too racy for the movies. It all made more sense.
Photo: by Noah Albert of the Hightower Apartments, used as the setting for Philip Marlowe’s home in Robert Altman’s film adaptation.
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One of the reasons I was excited to move to Nashville and rent out Lauren’s house while she’s in Savannah was the yard. In Atlanta our house was on a narrow crowded street, and the only place we could grow anything was in a couple pots on the front porch stairs, but here there’s space and sun, and just about the perfect growing conditions for a garden.
Since we’re renting and since we’re pretty much just starting out as gardeners, we’re growing mostly in containers for now. Well, we took over the front flower bed with an herb/rock garden and a temporary place to grow our kales and lettuces while the weather is still cool. But other than that we’re growing everything in huge pots. I figure that it’s probably the easiest thing to do for a beginner. Plus, that way we don’t have to dig out huge squares of dirt across Lauren and Neil’s yard.
One day I want to have a big, overflowing garden with a path down the middle of it, just like Alys Fowler’s garden. I got hooked on the gardening show she did for the BBC, and binge-watched them all on Youtube a few weeks back. Alys is a professional gardener and horticulture journalist, but she’s completely unpretentious and creative and thrifty. The show came out back in 2010, before gardening got super trendy and before Williams Sonoma got its own “agrarian garden” section complete with $1500 chicken coops, so it’s refreshing to watch. Alys builds her own mini greenhouse out of found 1930s windows, and has her 1970s hippie friends come over and show her how to make pickles and how to d.i.y. tomato cages out of willow tree branches. While the vegetables are still growing, Alys goes foraging with her dog and comes back and makes dandelion fritters in her beautiful kitchen garden. It’s escapist stuff, but it’s also perfectly attainable (minus the living in England part). And the best part of all is that Alys always gardens in secondhand dresses and skirts and says it might even be easier, so I don’t even have to bother tracking down the overalls I didn’t want to buy.
Right now our garden is nothing like Alys’, but we already have some cherry tomato plants going, and our kale and lettuce seedlings are going crazy. We planted wildflowers for the bees (and, sadly, the birds, which have been eating up the seeds as soon as we plant them, so we’ll see how that turns out) and some strawberry plants that will, fingers crossed, be giving us fruit by June.