The first of these was a simple calendar that listed the birthdays of various writers of note. I remember my tremendous dismay when I turned to my birthday, July 23, and discovered the name of Coventry Patmore.
If the sight of his name doesn’t start you quoting from his most famous work, Angel in the House, you’re not alone. I remember going to the library to learn more about my birthday twin. Librarians, who like psychotherapists, hear everything and can keep a secret, understood my distress as they described this poem about the embodiment of feminine perfection. They did not expect to gladden my heart. I’m sure Victorian scholars could offer more nuance and context, but suffice it to say that the angel in the house is obedient to her husband and devoted to her children. Not the kind of role model I was looking for at the time. The Angel in the House gets to be but she doesn’t get to act.
Honor. Despair. Ennui. ALCOHOL!! My kind of guy.
So every year around my birthday I spend a little time with Mr. Chandler. Several years ago, I tried a gimlet. According to Terry Lennox, Philip Marlowe’s client in The Long Goodbye, a proper gimlet is made with half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice. I don’t know if my gimlet was made using that recipe, but it was uninspiring. I returned to the world of the Rob Roy and the vodka martini.
I’ve never lost my taste for Chandler’s prose. This is Terry Lennox’s paean to the perfect moment in a bar:
‘I like bars just after they open for the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny and the barkeep is giving himself that last look in the mirror to see if his tie is straight and his hair is smooth. I like the neat bottles on the bar back and the lovely shining glasses and the anticipation. I like to watch the man mix the first one of the evening and put it down on a crisp mat and pull the little folded napkin beside it. I like to taste it slowly. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar—that’s wonderful.’
Happy Birthday, Raymond Chandler (a few days late)
*NB: If you go to youtube you can hear Ian Fleming interviewing Raymond Chandler. Some of it is hard to hear, but it’s well worth a listen.