Wednesday, November 09, 2016

"I'll Be Waiting" (1939)

Read story by Raymond Chandler online.

Raymond Chandler later derided this story as "slick fiction," probably because it was published in the Saturday Evening Post. And to the extent that Chandler was a precise writer, which he was, perhaps it is. It's also complicated and allusive, working on multiple levels, which is also something Chandler did a lot. Tony Reseck is the main character, a hotel detective. He is keeping an eye on Eve Cressy, a woman who has been at the hotel for five days without leaving. She tells him she's "waiting for a tall dark guy that's no good." The tall dark guy was released from prison a few days earlier, convicted with the aid of Cressy. But the story between them seems more about love than vengeance—seems, I say, as nothing is quite clear. As it happens, the tall dark guy is already there in the hotel, though Reseck and Cressy don't know it yet. At that point, Chandler's cinematic style is engaged and there's a lot of activity we are left to parse and piece together. The players—Cressy, Reseck, and the tall dark guy, as well as a few other hotel employees—are moved about like checker pieces. There are complications involving open and closed elevators. People don't know some things that others do—sometimes they come to learn them, sometimes not. It's lucid about its details, as Chandler often is, with vivid and concrete physical description. The motivations of characters, however, are somewhat more murky. At a basic level, it's hard to tell if things went the way Reseck intended them. Or maybe he was lucky—or maybe he was not lucky. It's hard to tell, even though we have a much better sense of who is alive and who is dead, though even that is not entirely clear. What's great about this story is the language, which is often the case with Chandler. Yes, he's prone to some belabored overworking of similes and metaphors in his descriptions, but they rarely feel unearned. Everyone in this story has known hard times and good times, and moreover they know both are coming around again. Until death do them part. For now, they'll be waiting.

Library of America Story of the Week (Library of America)

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