The Long Embrace

  • by Judith Freeman
  • Narrated by Suzanne Toren
  • 12 hrs and 0 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Raymond Chandler was one of the most original and enduring crime novelists of the 20th century. Yet much of his pre-writing life, including his unconventional marriage, has remained shrouded in mystery. In this compelling, wholly original book, Judith Freeman sets out to solve the puzzle of who Chandler was and how he became the writer who would create in Philip Marlowe, an icon of American culture.Freeman uncovers vestiges of the Los Angeles that was terrain and inspiration for Chandler's imagination, including the nearly two dozen apartments and houses the Chandlers moved into and out of over the course of two decades. She also uncovers the life of Cissy Pascal, the older, twice-divorced woman Chandler married in 1924, who would play an essential role in how he came to understand not only his female characters - and Marlowe's relation to them - but himself as well.A revelation of a marriage that was a wellspring of need, illusion, and creativity, The Long Embrace provides us with a more complete picture of Raymond Chandler's life and art than any we have had before.

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What the Critics Say

"The Long Embrace may be the essential book on Raymond Chandler. Like his books, it offers a rational solution to a puzzle while at the same time retaining a sense of mystery." (The Chicago Tribune)
"A beautiful and original book....Freeman writes about L.A. with a tender precision and yearning that borders on the religious....Freeman's identification with her subject is so complete we feel we're there with Chandler too." (The Los Angeles Times)
"A compelling picture of present-day Los Angeles and a compelling dual portrait of Chandler and his wife....Ms. Freeman knows the territory as well as Marlowe himself....she feels the language and captures the mood. Like Cissy, when she crooks her finger, it's impossible not to follow." (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A fine portrait of Chandler

This is really a dual portrait--not of Chandler and his wife, Cissy, but of Chandler and Los Angeles. As a Los Angeles resident, Freeman knows the places that Chandler wrote about so well, and her method is to visit all of the astonishing 30-odd places that Chandler and his wife lived while telling the story of their lives. This method can make the book seem a little slow at first, since it's more "visiting Chandler's haunts" than discussing Chandler himself, but the method eventually pays off in a good evocation of Chandler's Los Angeles.

The research about Chandler's early life and his sad decline after Cissy died is interesting, as is the information provided about Cissy. One piece of information that might have been resolved: Freeman discusses Chandler's affairs during his Hollywood years and indicates that the Chandlers came close to divorce, yet Chandler's letters state that he was never unfaithful to her and that she was the love of his life. Both of these contradictory ideas are presented without a resolution, but that, too, might be just part of the method here.

Well worth listening to, and worth the patience that it might take to work through the first few chapters.
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- Chris

Separates the Wheat from the Chaff ... and Prints the Chaff

Raymond Chandler was a seminal author who lived an eccentric, virtually inexplicable, life. How did he become, at age 53, a significant, almost revolutionary, author of film noir after never writing anything more memorable than a spreadsheet for the oil company where he worked as an accountant for his entire pre-writing career? Why did he marry a woman 18 years older than he? Was he gay and, if so, did that affect his writing? Why did Chandler and his equally eccentric wife, Cissy, live a peripatetic life, moving almost every year of their married lives to a succession of 30 or so mostly semi-seedy, apartments?

These questions are raised, but, mostly unanswered, in “The Long Embrace”, a disjointed, not-exactly-biography that dedicates too many pages (or, if you listen to the audiobook, too many hours) tracking down Chandler and Cissy’s constant, perhaps, obsessive, moves in and around Los Angeles 70-80 years ago. Trust me, that search, loaded with irrelevant detail, is almost completely devoid of interesting information.

If you can persevere through all those pages about all those apartments, there are some interesting questions that do get somewhat addressed: To what extent can we read the enigmatic Chandler and Cissy into his various characters? How did the reclusive Chandler handle Hollywood, where he became a successful screenwriter? What did the snobbish Chandler think of the movies based on his books and how did he regard Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell and the other actors who played Chandler’s creation, the iconic detective Philip Marlowe?

Chandler was such a unique, bizarre, brilliant, flawed character that there are inevitably some worthwhile moments in “The Long Embrace”. But they are overwhelmed by so many trips to so many apartments in so many parts of L.A. that they stand out like "a black widow spider on a piece of angel food cake".
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- Brustar

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-04-2008
  • Publisher: Audible Studios