What Revision Looks Like - University of Arizona

What Revision Looks Like - University of Arizona

What Revision Looks Like In Fiction Raymond Chandler Chandler began working on The Big Sleep in the spring of 1938. The writing progressed quickly, taking only three months--a pace he would never again be able to match. The plot is drawn from two of his short stories, "Killer in the Rain" and "The Curtain" and incorporates small pieces of "Finger Man." Although he called the process "cannibalization," Chandler did not

cut and paste passages but rather rewrote entire scenes, in the process tightening his prose and enriching his descriptions. Something like this The improvement can be seen comparing the opening paragraphs of the novel's Chapter 3 with the original version in "The Curtain", both of which describe Vivian Regan/O'Mara's bedroom:

from "The Curtain" The room had a white carpet from wall to wall. Ivory drapes of immense height lay tumbled casually on the white carpet inside many windows. The windows stared toward the dark foothills, and the air beyond the glass was dark too. It hadn't started to rain yet, but there was a feeling of pressure in the atmosphere.

from The Big Sleep The room was too big, the ceiling was too high, the doors were too tall, and the white carpet that went from wall to wall looked like a fresh fall of snow at Lake Arrowhead. There were full-length mirrors and crystal doodads all over the place. The ivory furniture had chromium on it, and the enormous ivory drapes lay tumbled on the white carpet a yard from the window. The white made the ivory look dirty and the ivory made the white look bled out. The windows stared toward the darkening

foothills. It was going to rain soon. There was pressure in the air already. from "The Curtain" The air steamed. The walls and ceiling of the glass house dripped. In the half light enormous tropical plants spread their blooms and branches all over the place, and the smell of them was almost as overpowering as the smell of boiling alcohol.

from The Big Sleep The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom. The glass walls and roof were heavily misted and big drops of moisture splashed down on the plants. The light had an unreal greenish color, like light filtered through an aquarium tank. The plants filled the place, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men. They smelled as overpowering as

boiling alcohol under a blanket. "Pearls are a Nuisance" (short story, 1939) He snorted and hit me in the solar plexus. I bent over and took hold of the room with both hands and spun it. When I had it nicely spinning I gave it a full swing and hit myself on the back of the head with the floor. from The Big Sleep

It was about eleven o'clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills. I was wearing my powder-blue suit, with dark blue shirt, tie and display handkerchief, black brogues, black wool socks with dark little clocks on them. I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn't care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.opening paragraph, chapter 1 A few locks of dry white hair clung to his scalp, like wild flowers fighting for life on a bare rock.chapter 2

The old man nodded, as if his neck was afraid of the weight of his head.chapter 2 "Red Wind" (short story, 1938) published in Trouble Is My Business (1939) There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze

party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

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