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The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Lovedby Judith Freeman
"It is the inspired idea of the novelist Judith Freeman, played out in her atmospheric and unusual The Long Embrace, to try to tease out something of Chandler's nature by looking at his relations with women, and particularly with his wife of thirty years, Cissy. The book, Freeman stresses at the outset, will not be a biography...nor does she pick apart the novels for clues as many of his admirers...might do. Hers is, at heart, a more personal and curious mission: she confesses that she is obsessed by both Cissy and the man she habitually refers to as 'Ray,' and drawn to them for reasons she can't explain. The book becomes, therefore, a series of desultory, brooding, solitary meditations in which she drives around contemporary Los Angeles, looking, often in vain, for the places where Cissy and Chandler lived, and seeing what little she can dig up of a relationship that has always been mysterious." Pico Iyer, The New York Review of Books (read the entire New York Review of Books review)
Synopses & Reviews
Raymond Chandler was one of the most original and enduring crime novelists of the twentieth century. Yet much of his pre-writing life, including his unconventional marriage, has remained shrouded in mystery. In this compelling, wholly original book, Judith Freeman sets out to solve the puzzle of who Chandler was and how he became the writer who would create in Philip Marlowe an icon of American culture.
Freeman uncovers vestiges of the Los Angeles that was terrain and inspiration for Chandler's imagination, including the nearly two dozen apartments and houses the Chandlers moved into and out of over the course of two decades. She also uncovers the life of Cissy Pascal, the older, twice-divorced woman Chandler married in 1924, who would play an essential role in how he came to understand not only his female characters — and Marlowe's relation to them — but himself as well.
A revelation of a marriage that was a wellspring of need, illusion, and creativity, The Long Embrace provides us with a more complete picture of Raymond Chandler's life and art than any we have had before.
"Novelist Freeman (Red Water) turns her obsession with Chandler and his beautiful wife, Cissy, into a kind of voyeuristic exploration of their unusual but symbiotic marriage. The creator of Philip Marlowe and author of such classics as The Long Goodbye and Farewell, My Lovely, remains an enigma and his much older wife (she lied to him about her age) is even more of a cipher. Freeman describes researching Chandler archives at both UCLA and the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and her pilgrimages to the extraordinary number of homes and apartments (more than 30) where the peripatetic Chandlers lived in California. She also consulted printed resources and interviewed some who knew the Chandlers late in their lives. She effectively uses passages from Chandler's fiction and letters to illustrate his battles with alcoholism, boredom, manuscripts and screenplays. Less effective are the many passages where Freeman tries to read too much from scanty clues (for instance, trying to guess which woman in a photograph is the one Chandler had an affair with). The result is an uneven account, part author's journal, part biography, of an unusual couple whose marriage survived against all odds and may have been the key factor that allowed Chandler to create his tarnished knight, Marlowe. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A compelling picture of present-day Los Angeles and a compelling dual portrait of Chandler and his wife....Ms. Freeman knows the territory as well as Marlowe himself...she feels the language and captures the mood. Like Cissy, when she crooks her finger, it's impossible not to follow." The New York Times
"A beautiful and original book....Freeman writes about L.A. with a tender precision and yearning that borders on the religious....In The Long Embrace, magic has occurred. Freeman's identification with her subject is so complete we feel we're there with Chandler too." The Los Angeles Times
"An invaluable prism to understand Raymond Chandler, his wife and most of all Los Angeles and its environs, of which he became the literary champion....Ms. Freeman's intuitive understanding of the writer and his terrain make her the perfect person to ask the right questions....Ms. Freeman not only establishes the centrality of Cissy to Chandler's life and art, she actually succeeds in making the reader feel their passion." The Washington Times
"What makes this an exceptional book is the way Freeman merges her own personal obsession with Chandler with a haunting meditation on Los Angeles. Few writers have revealed the essence of this chronically misunderstood city so well." Newsday
"An acute and empathic study....Freeman does some fine literary detective work." The Guardian
"The Long Embrace may be the essential book on Raymond Chandler. Like his books, it offers a rational solution to a puzzle while at the same time retaining a sense of mystery." The Chicago Tribune
"Compelling biography...a novelist's nonfiction triumph." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Freeman provides a fascinating exploration of the life of Raymond Chandler and his wife, Cissy--the woman who would help transform the shy and troubled oil company accountant into a literary master.
About the Author
Judith Freeman is the author of four novels — The Chinchilla Farm, Set for Life, A Desert of Pure Feeling, and Red Water — and of Family Attractions, a collection of short stories. She lives in Los Angeles.
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