Ignored Letters

I am currently sitting in the UCLA Special Collections Reading Room. In front of me I have a letter dated May 3rd 1949 between Chandler and his friend James Sandoe. In it Chandler admits to running out of steam and that he finds he is less creative than he once was. This confirm a theory of mine that I have held for a long time and it astonishes me that I have missed this letter in the past.

I will have to double check, but I don’t think that this piece of correspondence has been published in the past and I find that surprising. If it hasn’t, it just goes to show that past biographies of Chandler have ignored the man’s development and declines as a writer. But what is a literary biography with out this element?

More soon. Writing this in hasty excitement. Will have to double check with published collections at home.


6 responses to “Ignored Letters

  1. I’d be interested to read what your theory is (guess I’ll have to wait til publication for that) but am really wondering which of ucla’s reading rooms holds these letters… is it ‘as exclusive as a mailbox’ or by appt/permission only?

  2. chandlerbiography

    At some point I promise I will blog my theory I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Bare with me, there are 55 boxes of Chandler papers to get through.

    The UCLA archive is wonderfully democratic. You can just walk into Special Collection and request access which, compared to the archive at Oxford, is very refreshing. Just don’t get in my way ;0)

  3. Is this the one where he says “I’ve a few leaky sparkplugs now …”? Interesting that he mentions “hitting on all twelve” which would probably be a Rolls Royce, rather than a more archetypally American V8.

  4. chandlerbiography

    @Chris Routledge. Yes, that’s the letter. The expurgated lines come immediately after that comment. I know little about cars but Chandler certainly did and it is amusing that he goes all British here. He was a fan of the American car and tended to buy Chryslers. He once bought a roadster that was so big that Cissy could barely see over the steering wheel.

  5. Interesting the decisions editors make. I think I have an idea where you are coming from with your theory–looking forward to hearing it.

    I reckon cars are at least as important as drinks in the novels. I did some work on this in the 1990s while writing a PhD thesis (it’s in the British Library for what it’s worth–academically ok but I’d write it differently now). Anyway Marlowe’s cars get better as he gets more disillusioned and less autonomous.

    • chandlerbiography

      That’s fascinating. I will look up your thesis when I get back. Until I visited Los Angeles (and despite having read a lot about the city and its culture) I had not appreciated how deeply embedded the automobile is in the Angeleno psyche. As I get deeper into the text too I realize the sort of games that Chandler liked to play with his readers. They’re only subtle but I think that they probably amused him when he was bored. I will do a post on it at some point.

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