Quotations by Chandler, Raymond


There are two kinds of truth: the truth that lights the way and the truth that warms the heart. The first of these is science, and the second is art. Neither is independent of the other or more important than the other. Without art science would be as useless as a pair of high forceps in the hands of a plumber. Without science art would become a crude mess of folklore and emotional quackery. The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
“Great Thought” (19 Feb 1938)

In The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler (1976)
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If you can go past those awful idiot faces on the bleachers outside the theater without a sense of the collapse of the human intelligence; if you can stand the hailstorm of flash bulbs popping at the poor patient actors who, like kings and queens, have never the right to look bored; if you can glance out over this gathered assemblage of what is supposed to be the elite of Hollywood and say to yourself without a sinking feeling, “In these hands lie the destinies of the only original art the modern world has conceived”; if you can laugh, and you probably will, at the cast-off jokes from the comedians on the stage, stuff that wasn’t good enough to use on their radio shows; if you can stand the fake sentimentality and the platitudes of the officials and the mincing elocution of the glamour queens (you ought to hear them with four martinis down the hatch); if you can do all these things with grace and pleasure, and not have a wild and forsaken horror at the thought that most of these people actually take this shoddy performance seriously; and if you can then go out into the night to see half the police force of Los Angeles gathered to protect the golden ones from the mob in the free seats but not from that awful moaning sound they give out, like destiny whistling through a hollow shell; if you can do all these things and still feel next morning that the picture business is worth the attention of one single intelligent, artistic mind, then in the picture business you certainly belongif you can do these things and still feel the next morning that the picture business is worth the attention of one single, intelligent, artistic mind, then in the picture business you certainly belong because this sort of vulgarity, the very vulgarity from which the Oscars are made, is the inevitable price that Hollywood exacts from each of its serfs.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
“Oscar Night in Hollywood,” The Atlantic (Mar 1948)
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There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
“Red Wind” (1938)
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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 detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor — by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks — that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

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 (1888-1959) American novelist
“The Simple Art of Murder,” Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1944)
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There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
“The Simple Art of Murder,” Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1944)
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As for “literature of expression” and “literature of escape” — this is critics’ jargon, a use of abstract words as if they had absolute meanings. Everything written with vitality expresses that vitality: there are no dull subjects, only dull minds.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
“The Simple Art of Murder,” Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1944)
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All men who read escape from something else into what lies behind the printed page; the quality of the dream may be argued, but its release has become a functional necessity. All men must escape at times from the deadly rhythm of their private thoughts. … I hold no particular brief for the detective story as the ideal escape. I merely say that all reading for pleasure is escape, whether it be Greek, mathematics, astronomy, Benedetto Croce, or The Diary of the Forgotten Man. To say otherwise is to be an intellectual snob, and a juvenile at the art of living.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
“The Simple Art of Murder,” Atlantic Monthly (Dec 1944)
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Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Dec-10 | Last updated 1-Dec-10
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There is no bad whiskey, there are only some whiskies that aren’t as good as others.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
(Attributed)
Added on 22-Dec-10 | Last updated 24-Dec-10
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If you liked a book, don’t meet the author.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
(Attributed)
Added on 17-Jun-14 | Last updated 17-Jun-14
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If my books had been any worse, I should not have been invited to Hollywood, and if they had been any better, I should not have come.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Atlantic Monthly (12 Dec 1945)
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It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Farewell, My Lovely, ch. 13 (1940)
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I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun. I put them on and went out of the room.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Farewell, My Lovely, chapter 34 (1940)
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What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a dirty sump or in a marble tower on the top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that, oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell. Me, I was part of the nastiness now. Far more a part of it than Rusty Regan was.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Big Sleep (1939)
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As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Big Sleep (1939)
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I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Big Sleep, ch. 3 (1939)
    (Source)

In the 1943 movie adaptation by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and J. Furthman, the Phillip Marlowe line is delivered by Humphrey Bogart: "I don't mind if you don't like my manners. I don't like them myself. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings."
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From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The High Window (1942)
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Alcohol is like love: the first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you just take the girl’s clothes off.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Good-bye, ch. 12 (1954)
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The law isn’t justice. It’s a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Goodbye (1953)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Feb-04
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   Gregorius bared his teeth at me. They needed cleaning — badly. “Let’s have the exit line, chum.”
   “Yes, sir,” I said politely. “You probably didn’t intend it, but you’ve done me a favor. With an assist from Detective Dayton. You’ve solved a problem for me. No man likes to betray a friend but I wouldn’t betray an enemy into your hands. You’re not only a gorilla, you’re an incompetent. You don’t know how to operate a simple investigation. I was balanced on a knife edge and you could have swung me either way. But you had to abuse me, throw coffee in my face, and use your fists on me when I was in a spot where all I could do was take it. From now on I wouldn’t tell you the time by the clock on your own wall.”
   For some strange reason he sat there perfectly still and let me say it. Then he grinned. “You’re just a little old cop-hater, friend. That’s all you are, shamus, just a little old cop-hater.”
   “There are places where cops are not hated, Captain. But in those places you wouldn’t be a cop.”

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Goodbye (1953)
Added on 15-Feb-13 | Last updated 15-Feb-13
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A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Goodbye (1954)
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There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Goodbye, ch. 12 (1953)
Added on 22-Apr-13 | Last updated 22-Apr-13
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She hung up and I set out the chess board. I filled a pipe, paraded the chessmen and inspected them for French shaves and loose buttons, and played a championship tournament game between Gortchakoff and Meninkin, seventy-two moves to a draw, a prize specimen of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object, a battle without armour, a war without blood, and as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you could find anywhere outside an advertising agency.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Long Goodbye, ch. 24 (1953)
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Without magic, there is no art. Without art, there is no idealism. Without idealism, there is no integrity. Without integrity, there is nothing but production, and in the end not even that, since showmanship on the most frankly commercial level contains an element of incessant striving for perfection, if it be only a perfection of detail.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
The Notebooks of Raymond Chandler [ed. Frank MacShayne] (1976)
Added on 15-Dec-10 | Last updated 15-Dec-10
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Undoubtedly the stories about them [hard-boiled detectives] had a fantastic element. Such things happened, but not so rapidly, nor to so close-knit a group of people, nor within so narrow a frame of logic. This was inevitable because the demand was for constant action; if you stopped to think you were lost. When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Trouble Is My Business, Introduction (1950)
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Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all of the tricks and has nothing to say.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Trouble Is My Business, Introduction (1950)

Full text.
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As a writer I have never been able to take myself with that enormous earnestness which is one of the trying characteristics of the craft.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Trouble Is My Business, Introduction (1950)
Added on 27-Oct-10 | Last updated 27-Oct-10
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A writer who is afraid to overreach himself is as useless as a general who is afraid to be wrong.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Trouble Is My Business, Introduction (1950)
Added on 26-Jan-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-11
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The private detective of fiction is a fantastic creation who acts and speaks like a real man. He can be completely realistic in every sense but one, that one sense being that in life as we know it such a man would not be a private detective.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Letter (19 Apr 1951)

Published in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962).
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A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Letter to Mrs. Robert Hogan (8 Mar 1947)

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In the long run, however little you talk or even think about it, the most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off.

Raymond Chandler (1888-1959) American novelist
Letter to Mrs. Robert Hogan (8 Mar 1947)

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Added on 12-Jan-11 | Last updated 12-Jan-11
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