So you can read my books

Wednesday, July 27, 2011






Roland is still sleeping on the floor in the cool vacant apartment lent him. I have snatched his electronic gadget and come here to his stifling apartment to talk of writing.

I’ve just finished a book I took down from his shelf, POINT OF NO RETURN by John P. Marquand. Strange that such good writing should leave me with so little feeling of having read anything of any importance.

A man has no right to write that well and in the end say so little.

Who cares about the people who always say, do, think, and wear the right thing … and yet are vaguely conscious that it is only the right thing because people of money say it is.

So many modern books are like that :

sad but not too sad, romantic in a lifeless way, beautifully detailed observations ... and the total effect of a steel engraving with no color at all. I guess God must have made such writers on a wet Sunday.

I look at such books and ask, ‘Where is the heart, the soul, the marrow in the bone?’

Certainly, not in the dialogue of those books.

The dialogue. That is where they usually go wrong.

If the dialogue is not peppered with the profanity of truth, of life as it is truly felt, then you paint in grays.

Take out the real in a novel, and you neuter Chekov into the artificiality of Mansfield. Better to drink water than near-beer. So many authors know the lyrics but not the music.

Dialogue done well renders life to a novel. In Dostoyevsky, there is such a burning trueness to the prose that it changes you as you read.

We write to express ourselves, to record the reactions of our personalities to the world in which we live. Every writer dips his brush into his own soul and paints his own nature into his prose.

We look into the mirror, but we do not see the person others see. No. To others we are not ourselves but an actor in their lives cast for a part we do not even know we are playing.

In like manner, so is our prose. Others read into the mirror of our words what they know of themselves. Only if our words strike the tuning fork of their souls will they keep on turning the pages.

How do each of you try to make each page in your novel real enough to strike that tuning fork? Tell me. I am a curious ghost.

Yours most sincerely,

Raymond Chandler


As I read Roland's adventures of Victor Standish, it occurred to me that he could be played by that Taylor Lautner young man. See? Even ghosts can dream :


  1. Hi Roland .. glad you're having some cool evenings and a good sleep .. and do hope you can get settled soon.

    Love your sentence about God making such writers on a wet Sunday .. and about the dialogue .. painting in the grays ..

    You certainly write to express yourself .. and do so very eloquently .. us readers need to be caught into the trap of reading and appreciating the whole ..

    Cheers for now .. Hilary

  2. It's just terrible that you're having to sleep on the floor. They can sugar coat it all they want...the floor is just hard. I agree that writing shouldn't be about plain words but about what's in our hearts and souls. You must have been in my head last night. What's the use of words if they're not soaked in passion first? Why do things half-ass when you can go for the gusto? It's true that people never really see us as we are, and they will interpret our words as they see fit.

    To make my characters seem real, I place myself inside them when I write and try to feel what they feel. It works...I think. :)

  3. Hilary :
    Thanks for the kind words about my writing. And it is certainly good to be in a cool, though vacant, apartment. I'm glad you liked my thoughts and how I expressed them.

    Laila :
    The air mattress is not so bad. The owner said he sleeps on an air mattress himself. That's his choice. Not mine.

    I'm happy you and I are kindred spirits. All of us are in solitary confinement, locked within our skulls. We reach out to one another through the bars with clumsy things like words and gestures. But words, as you say, are so often misunderstood.

    I'm like you : go for it with all your heart or do not even make the attempt. I hope your mid-week goes well, Roland

  4. I slept on an air mattress for about a year, so I feel your pain, Roland!

  5. Making every page sing is something I still struggle with. I have no magic formulas, just write, revise, and write some more.

  6. ...considering how you just bought my book a day ago, this post leaves me a bit unnerved ;)

    Please Mr. Chandler, give my bag 'o bones a fightin chance!

    Temps up here are cooling down a bit, my friend. Hoping for winds of change down your way as well.

    Hang in there, Roland.


  7. That's the struggle, really, to write something worth writing, but still make it engaging.

    My stories tend to have strong subcurrents of spirituality, or at least that is the intent. The spirituality is often felt, not heard, thus the calling of it as subcurrent, something you may not see directly.

    It's important to give the readers something to talk about.

    That was a good book, they say.

    Why? you ask.

    Don't know. It just was. He had good grammar.

    Nah, you have to write more than that. You have to leave them with something afterward, a burning on the back of their tongue that forces them to pass on your ideas to the next person.

    - Eric