“The Big Sleep” is one of the novels for the Los Angeles component of my university course, one I wasn’t particularly looking forward to. I’ve never had that pull for Hollywood or the romanticized version of the city. Some people find the dark underbelly appealing but I’m terrified by it. Similarly, American detectives are always difficult for me to swallow. They’re quite different from their counterparts, and I much prefer the latter. But if “The Big Sleep” is so well-known then it must be a decent book, I reasoned.
‘Decent’ is being a little generous, although I didn’t find the book absolutely terrible. I’m not quite sure what the redeeming qualities even were, but I can definitely say what I didn’t like, Marlowe’s character being the main thing. It’s easy to misread what he is saying or how he is acting, and the way many of my classmates interpreted Marlowe’s words about earning twenty-five dollars a day near the end of the novel in the wrong way, according to my prof at least. He was an unpleasant man, snarky and sexist to the point where even I felt uncomfortable, and I usually don’t complain about those kinds of things.
Beyond Marlowe was the mess of a story that the reader has to follow. It was only in the last couple of pages that I finally understood what the problem was in the first place, let alone understanding the solution. It was poorly presented, I think, and badly paced. Much of the story is overloaded with exaggerated similes and description of clothing, manner, and location to the point where it’s easy to get lost. Finding out how the characters are interconnected and what is going on with each is just as difficult.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I actually wanted to sort through this jumbled that I found the book bearable. I didn’t particularly enjoy it but if there’s one thing Chandler succeeded in doing, it’s grabbing at my curiosity. Otherwise I much prefer the European detective, where I can coherently follow along with the plot and watch it unravel before me like a masterful puzzle.