Raymond Chandler’s Prose Style – Some Examples

But the LOA people knew what they were up to. Two pages into The High Window I was convinced that Chandler, despite some stylistic excesses, belongs in the canon as well as the cigar store:

“A large black and gold butterfly fishtailed in and landed on a hydrangea bush almost at my elbow, moved its wings slowly up and down a few times, then took off heavily and staggered away through the motionless hot scented air.”

Nabokov couldn’t have described a butterfly more tellingly (though he probably would have noted its species and genus). “Staggered away” is perfect. Now consider this: “An old man sat inside it [an elevator] slack-jawed and watery-eyed on a piece of folded burlap on top of a wooden stool. He looked as if he had been sitting there since the Civil War and had come out of that badly.”

Or this: “The bar entrance was to the left. It was dusky and quiet and a bartender moved mothlike against the faint glitter of piled glassware. A tall handsome blond in a dress that looked like seawater sifted over with gold dust came out of the Ladies’ Room touching up her lips and turned toward the arch, humming.

Or even this: “We looked at each other with the clear innocent eyes of a couple of used car salesmen. ”

Michael Dirda
Readings: Essays and Literary Entertainments