The Metaphysics of Detective Marlowe: Style, Vision, Hard-Boiled Repartee, Thugs, and Death-Dealing Damsels in Raymond Chandler's Novels

Overview

The Metaphysics of Detective Marlowe: Style, Vision, Hard-Boiled Repartee, Thugs, and Death-Dealing Damsels in Raymond Chandler’s Novels is a comparative study of ‘the life and times” of an American idol, Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe. It is a bitter-sweet critical exploration, meant to redefine the exceptional cultural profile, as well as the moral and social obsessions of one of America’s eminent fictional heroes. The study paints a colorful picture of the irresistible blend of romantic blind ...

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Overview

The Metaphysics of Detective Marlowe: Style, Vision, Hard-Boiled Repartee, Thugs, and Death-Dealing Damsels in Raymond Chandler’s Novels is a comparative study of ‘the life and times” of an American idol, Raymond Chandler’s detective Philip Marlowe. It is a bitter-sweet critical exploration, meant to redefine the exceptional cultural profile, as well as the moral and social obsessions of one of America’s eminent fictional heroes. The study paints a colorful picture of the irresistible blend of romantic blind faith and social, moral and political toughness which characterized the United States in the 1930s-40s, with the memorable throng of drug dealers, hit men, vamps, corrupt politicians, and eccentric millionaires that colonize Raymond Chandler’s work. As the only defender of truth and honor in the Californian “Waste Land,” Philip Marlowe emerges as a symbolic figure, celebrated for the unique place he holds in the American hard-boiled mythology. The volume comprises an Introduction, Marlowe Before Marlowe, and four large chapters, each focusing on the innovations and enduring strategies behind Chandler’s persuasive vision: The Doughy Mass of Depravity, A Phantasm Called Style, The Villainy Septet and Marlowe After Marlowe.

As presented in this book, Philip Marlowe, ‘the metaphysical sleuth,’ is a sentimentalist of the worst type: one embarrassed to show his true feelings. He is tough, but not tough enough and, consequently, a charming loser, always defeated in his confrontations with psychopath monsters and the legions of death-dealing damsels. The Californian detective’s gentleness and callousness are endearing: the gentleness is always callous, and the callousness is barely gentle. He seems to be the survivor of an extinct species, living for and by a code of honor. He believes in the purity of desires, expressed in a nascent idiom, a kind of secret/public language that heralds the resurrection of the new hard-boiled diction. His genuine candor is perfectly expressed in the directness of his talk, a brilliant example of rhetorical tightrope walking. Philip Marlowe embodies the contradictions of the problematic modernism—half bedlam, half expressionism—of his time and ours alike. The tradition he inaugurated is consistently illustrated today by James Ellroy, Allan Guthrie, Walter Mosley, Megan Abbott or Charlie Hudson.

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Editorial Reviews

Vladimir Tismaneanu
A brilliant Central European intellectual, Mircea Mihaiesis a literary critic situated in the great tradition of Lionel Trilling and Edmund Wilson. He innovatively recreates the harrowing universe of detective Marlowe and invites us to visit a labyrinth of haunting shadows, dark neuroses, and compulsive passions. A fresh and inspiring perspective, free of any obscure jargon and full of original insights.
Thomas Pavel
Intelligent, lively, and always right on target, Mihaies’s book is a splendid introduction to Raymond Chandler’s work.A must read for lovers of detective fiction and of smart literary criticism.
Andreea Deciu Ritivoi
Mircea Mihaies has given more than a comprehensive account of a literary genre and one of its most successful exemplars, Raymond Chandler’s crime fiction. He also writes with erudition and passion, and his book is jam-packed with analytic detail, while never losing sight of the larger picture, which is about more than just detective stories, and even more than just literature. Bold in claims, The Metaphysics of Detective Marlowe is a reflection on the complicated relation between social morality and individual conscience, as well as virtue and vice in American modernity.
Clive Bloom
Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe come to life inMircea Mihaies’shugely enjoyable and scholarly read. Abook for scholars, whiskey-drinkingprivate eyes,andmachine-gun mollsalike.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739186572
  • Publisher: Lexington Books
  • Publication date: 12/1/2013
  • Pages: 221
  • Product dimensions: 11.20 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Mircea Mihaies is professor of English and American literatures at the University of the West, Timisoara, Romania, and the director of its American studies MA program. He is a four time recipient of the prestigious Romanian Writers’ Union prize for literary criticism.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Marlowe Before Marlowe
Chapter 1: The Doughy Mass of Depravity
Chapter 2: A Phantasm Called Style
Chapter 3: The Villainy Septet
Chapter 4: Marlowe After Marlowe
References
Index
About the Author

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