October 6, 2020
Raymond Chandler once tried his hands at jokes…
by Athena Bryan
Raymond Chandler, author of hardboiled detective classics The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye among many others, isn’t exactly known for his silly side. But apparently, he once wrote a parody, and I’m sure he’d be very pleased to know that somebody not only dug it up but is publishing it in The Strand magazine later this month!
It’s called “Advice to an Employer” and The Guardian excerpted a couple of knee-slappers from the farcical instructions to, you guessed it, an employer. A couple highlights:
“Please do not go to sleep in the middle of the day,” “Please do not fall on your employee or their animals,” and “No working while drinking.”
“Always tell your secretary you have nothing to dictate until it is time for dinner. Then rattle off a lot of letters you have left since domesday.”
What a bunch of silliness!
According to some, namely one Prof. Sarah Trott of York St John University, “this is the real Chandler.” And the editor of the story at The Strand feels that “this might lend credence to the theory that … authors of dark works can be very funny.”
While I’m not sure that the teasers have convincingly proven that Chandler was funny per se—and I am not trying to knock the legendary, and according to Billy Wilder, “acid, sour, grouchy” man—I’m pretty sure Chandler played to his strengths as a writer with his hardboiled fiction. Which is fine! Some people do jokes—some people do noir.
I mean can you imagine if I wrote these blog posts all gritty?
I wrote the blog post in the hard, cold light of early October. As I read the Guardian’s article, I lit a cigarette and took in a lungful of smoke. A butler in slate-grey pants with a high, taught forehead handed me a glass of brandy and I took a sip before stubbing out my cigarette.
“Raymond Chandler’s satire is as hollow and empty as the place between stars,” I typed into my laptop—which was also grey and pretty hard—and took another swig.
See! It makes all the drinking and smoking I do while Mobying sound all forbidding and unpleasant…
Anyhow, see if you can catch your breath later this month when this howler publishes in The Strand.
Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.