By Brian Docherty
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Additional resources for American Crime Fiction: Studies in the Genre
All quotations from texts written in languages other than English are in my own translation, unless otherwise specified; but page references are to the original). Howard Haycraft, Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the 7. Detective Story (New York: Appleton-Century, 1941) p. 11. 8. Julian Symons, Mortal Consequences: A History from the Detective Story to the Crime Novel (New York: Schocken Books, 1973) p. 27. 9. 107. Cf. also William Godwin, Caleb Williams (1794); E. T. A. Hoffman, 10. 'Mademoiselle de Scudery' (1819); Charles Dickens, Barnaby Rudge (1840), Bleak House (1853); Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (1868).
The slow, comma'd sentences mark the stage-bystage ritual of photographic procedure in the years before Polaroids or one-hour fotomats. There is no instant button or formula to cut short the necessary delays between recording and thinking, between witnessing the scene in Berlin and that future day when all this will have to be developed and made permanent. The Christopher who appears as a witness to life in the streets and cafes of Berlin is thereby separated from Christopher Isherwood, 23 24 American Crime Fiction the author: he is made a function, a 'convenient ventriloquist's dummy', as Isherwood calls him in the introduction; a camera eye.
Even on Central Avenue, not the quietest dressed street in the world, he looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food. 34 It's that last line, the wisecracking simile of the tarantula on a slice of angel food, that is so characteristic of Chandler's writing and that enables him to make Philip Marlowe's consciousness, in James Agee's phrase, the subject as well as the governing instrument of each book. Like Agee, like Isherwood, like Hemingway, Chandler insists that the force of the objective, documentary vision is that it stems from an intensely personal effort of perception.
American Crime Fiction: Studies in the Genre by Brian Docherty