Monday, February 10, 2014

Well Said: In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption.

From a justifiably famous essay by Raymond Chandler, though I think he was a bit harsh on authors such as Agatha Christie when he wrote it. Regardless, this applies to much more than a noir novel. You can read the essay at the link.
In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.


The story is the man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in. ”
Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder


  1. I take Chandler's point to be that, since detective novels *can* be works of art, they *ought* to be works of art, and detective novels that fail to be works of art are failures, however popular they may be, and even if they are intentionally written to *not* be works of art. And there's something to that (even if Agatha Christie, at her best, was an accomplished artist of hidden evils).

    There's some irony, in that Chandler the novelist wasn't as artistic as Chandler the critic would have him be. Another irony is that, though this is one of the seminal essays in detective fiction criticism, it has been largely read, quoted, and ignored, both by detective novelists as a class and by the "lazy readers" who gobble up their books.

  2. That's a great quote. Do you know if Chandler was religious?