A number of “pansies” and a lot of alcohol

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

After questioning Neovictorian’s Sanity a couple years ago, I decided to read (and then comment on) The Maltese Falcon, as he had called out Dashiell Hammett as one of his favorite authors in his afterward.

That story is better known for the Bogart film, which brings up the biggest difference between the book and the movie: the character of Sam Spade looks absolutely nothing like Bogart.

I bring this up, because I just read The Big Sleep, which is also better known for its Bogart film, where, again, the actor looks nothing like the book’s protagonist — in this case, Philip Marlowe — who is tall, solidly built, and notably good looking.

Like The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep features a number of “pansies” and a lot of alcohol.

I’ll have more to say later, in part because I got an annotated edition full of interesting tidbits.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Some idiot cast Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher, so don’t complain about Bogie as Spade or Marlowe.

  2. Lucklucky says:

    Not typically, I found Maltese Falcon a weak book; I prefer the movie.

  3. Kirk says:

    Regarding he “”pansies” and a lot of alcohol” thing…

    Ya have to remember that this stuff was written as cheap entertainment, pulp fiction. The authors were not trying for “profound”; they were trying for “will sell and make me money”. As such, it’s a reflection of a reflection of a reflection–They wrote stuff that they thought people would buy, based on their perceptions of what they believed people would want to read, which in turn were based on that audience’s self-images and fantasies. Guys who wanted to daydream about being a two-fisted drinker that would bed every floozy he ran across might have actually conducted themselves in a totally different manner in their own lives, and probably did. It’s like the guy who spends his workday productively, comes home, cares for the wife and kids, and then gets in a rousing session of blowing away pedestrians and hookers in GTA–If you judge by that game, 90% of our modern-day life consists of drug deals and killing random sex workers. Is that an accurate representation of the times? Outside of Oakland and a few other Democrat-run venues, that is…

    You start trying to analyze any depth out of things, and pretty soon you’re in a house of mirrors and it all becomes entirely self-referential, and you’re more likely looking at your own prejudices and beliefs rather than either what the author really thought or what the buying public was really like.

    Consider the difficulty in trying to analyze Grand Theft Auto in a hundred years, and trying to tease out anything really profound and truthful about our own culture at this time–Sure, there are gonna be people doing just that, but the question is, would any of us recognize a damn thing they manage to come up with? Will any of it actually be in any way meaningful and true to the era?

    Sometimes this stuff is like a flower: Appreciate it for what it is in its environment, instead of trying to preserve and “interpret” it for the ages. Pop culture is a thing of the moment, the zeitgeist of the time. Trying to take it past the fleeting fancies of the ephemeral moment is a fool’s errand, and likely to wind up getting everything about it as wrong as wrong can be.

  4. Paul from Canada says:

    Kirk’s comment reminds me of something I read about regarding the safety valve of anti-social entertainment. There is a correlation (note: correlation is not [necessarily] causation), between the availability of pornography and actual “stranger rape”. The more pornography, the less actual sexual violence.

    Japan is an extreme example. They have a very stratified and hierarchical society. The concept of senpai and kohai, senior and junior, is extremely ingrained. The kohai is expected to serve and respect their senpai, and the senpai is supposed to support, nurture and mentor their kohai, even if the difference is a matter of being hired a few hours apart at the same company.

    Hierarchy is extremely important, so teachers are to be obeyed and respected at all times. Yet a major theme in Japanese porn is a teacher being humiliated and sexually exploited by their students. There are many similar tropes as well.

    The concept seems to be that extreme politeness and respect for hierarchy is extremely important for social cohesion in such a crowded society, yet an “escape” or “safety valve” seems to be needed and is also supplied. So long as the expression is reading edgy manga and weird porn, and the expression is not physical, a GTA style escape is condoned. But don’t for a minute think it can actually be acted out.

  5. Neovictorian says:

    Kirk makes some good points about writers and markets. Having written a couple of books, I can say that I got a sense there was a market for the stuff from Twitter and other platforms. So in writing a book, it’s the observer effect. You’re creating a work of art, but where the content is, partially subconsciously, slanted toward entertainment of a certain type of reader.

    Raymond Chandler was writing for a market, sure, but the point about him is that he was more honest than most about real human nature.

  6. Kirk says:


    One of the things I observed as an outsider with the Koreans and Japanese cultures was that both of them are really, really hierarchy and status-conscious to a degree that Americans can’t really comprehend.

    An officer of ours rendered himself useless as a liaison to the ROK Army because he let himself be observed (perish the thought…) driving a vehicle by all the officers he was supposed to be liaising with. That bit of insignificance got him essentially blackballed, because in Korean eyes, nobody important would ever be caught dead driving a vehicle. Never mind that his assigned driver was terrified by Korean traffic, and he’d spent two tours as an enlisted man driving all over Korea before he went for a commission… To our minds, the whole thing was ridiculous, but there it was–We actually got a flag-rank memo to the effect that Major so-and-so was “no longer acceptable” as a liaison officer.

    I’m not sure what the rationale was inside Korean minds, but the fact that this officer was observed as “driving” for a female Private First Class, well… Yeah. Also, Korean officers and NCOs will never, ever be seen to be doing manual labor. You do manual labor, you’re a nobody, and no Korean will listen to you or respect you, which makes for some interesting issues when you’re dealing with the Korean Augmentation to the US Army kids, otherwise known as KATUSA. Those poor bastards are whipsawed between the cultures, and a lot of them never get over it. In American terms, you don’t get your hands dirty, you lose “face” and credibility with your American soldiers; on the other hand, the Koreans lose respect for you, and they often can’t overcome the cognitive dissonance they develop, even after you do your best to explain how things work in the US Army.

    The other weird thing about Koreans and Japanese is that they’re a lot more role-conscious than Americans recognize or are aware of. Promote an American kid from one rank to the next, and you’re going to observe a gradual adaptation to the new rank status. Do that with a Korean, and the shift from “Private First Class” to “Corporal” is nearly instantaneous. And, it becomes a deep part of their identity way more swiftly than you’d think possible. It’s really strange to see yesterday’s timid and frightened KATUSA private morph into Corporal Terror overnight, slapping around his former roomies and running buddies like they were different people. Which, I think, they actually were–In Korean terms.

    The other thing about this that always simultaneously amused, amazed, and horrified me was the sheer obliviousness your average American soldier displayed to these cultural differences. I ran into guys who’d had multiple tours in Korea over their careers, and they’d never noticed any of this stuff, or even really recognized what had to be going on around them. That Major who got blackballed? He had like two tours in Korea as an enlisted guy, before commissioning, and had done a tour in Korea as a Second Lieutenant, and he never cottoned onto the whole “status” mania in the ROK. The memo that came telling the command he was no longer welcome in the ROKA headquarters came as a bolt from the blue, and it had to be explained to him what he’d done wrong…

    ‘Effing amazing. Of course, I might have stumbled into a similar mistake, myself–But, the ROKA is a little more forgiving of US NCO “out of character” moments than they are of field grades. They think we’re mostly crazy, anyway…

  7. Kirk says:


    I think what we’re actually seeing is a bit of a return to the old days of the oral storyteller actually being in front of their audience, being able to gauge impact and taking feedback. Homer’s Odyssey was no doubt as much a collaborative work as anything else, but because we can’t distinguish the bits he worked in because “Popular and got good audience response…” from those which came out of his head, well… Who the hell knows how much of what the Odyssey is was actually his genius at work, as a storyteller, vs. his genius at reading the audience?

    Audience participation and feedback got really disconnected and tenuous with the advent of the printed word as the primary medium for storytelling. It would be interesting to imagine Hammett as some blind dude “singing for his supper” in front of a tavern or the King’s table, telling his stories and reading the audience. It’s likely a totally different skillset, and the impact on what he would have worked up as a storyteller in that work environment makes for some interesting speculation.

    Today’s feedback-enabled writers market makes for some interesting shifts in the writing process and what works. You have all these interesting things like “web serials” happening in the collaborative space of the internet, like “A Practical Guide to Evil” and “The Wandering Inn” that make me think of text-based storytellers gathering virtual crowds in the market square…

    It’s an interesting phenomenon. I suspect we may be witnessing the birth of a new medium, or at least, a new format for storytelling.

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