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The Big Empty: Chandler’s Transatlantic Modernism

Norman, Will (2013) The Big Empty: Chandler’s Transatlantic Modernism. Modernism/modernity, 20 (1). ISSN 1071-6068. E-ISSN 1080-6601. (KAR id:40669)

Language: English
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We begin with the great paradox of Raymond Chandler's career, which is often noted in passing but rarely examined closely. The most famous practitioner of that typically American art form, hardboiled detective fiction, thought of himself as a British exile. "Incidentally, I still regard myself as an exile, and want to come back," he told his British publisher Hamish Hamilton in 1945, while he later described himself as "half British" to his friend James Sandoe.1 Although born in Chicago, Chandler spent the years 1895-1912, between the ages of seven and twenty-four, living in South London, first as a schoolboy, then a civil servant, and finally as an execrable poet, essayist, and reviewer on the fringes of the late Edwardian and early Georgian literary scene. As he often reminded his friends and correspondents, he was also a product of the British public-school system, having attended Dulwich College: "one of the larger public schools," he explained to his publisher Blanche Knopf in 1940, although "not ranking with Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse or Marlborough" (SL, 15). Chandler's England, never fully dissociated from his public-school days, was a nation of cultural and educational tradition, ethical virtue, and refined taste. He dreamed of returning there from at least 1932, when he wrote a romantic poem eulogizing "the England I picture in the night hours / of this bright and dismal land / of my exile and dismay."2 only after the death of his wife in 1955 was he able to fulfill this desire, and he spent much of his remaining life once again in London, albeit often disillusioned with the cultural decline he discovered there.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English philology and language
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Will Norman
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 00:05 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:15 UTC
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