November 24, 2020
We’re still taking our fall tour along Raymond Chandler lane (don’t miss the “Trouble Is My Business” Part I and Part II Cocktail Talks), with Raymond Chandler of course, and have now made it to Seattle – which, coincidentally, is where I tend to sometimes hang my hat. So, as you can imagine, when I read the story “Goldfish,” in the book Trouble Is My Business and Other Stories, and Chandler’s PI Philip Marlowe ended up heading to Seattle, WA, well, I was tickled. And then they drank apple brandy! And then fish, and before that a mystery long-told, and I won’t want to say anymore cause you need to read the story – if I haven’t sold it, this quote will.
“Too early for apple brandy, ain’t it?” he whispered.
I told him how wrong he was. He went away again and came back with glasses and a quart of clear amber fluid. He sat down with me and poured. A rich baritone voice in the kitchen was singing “Chloe,” over the sizzling.
We clinked glasses and drank and waited for the heat to crawl up our spines.
“Stranger, ain’t you?” the little man asked.
I said I was.
“From Seattle maybe? That’s a nice piece of goods you got on.”
“Seattle,” I agreed.
— Raymond Chandler, “Goldfish”
November 17, 2020
Well, when I earlier (as in last week pals) had a “Trouble is My Business” Cocktail Talk post, I’ll bet those of you who bet made a bet at your local bookie that I’d have another one on its heels, and, well, here we are! I feel we’re gonna spend a few weeks with Mr. Chandler and Mr. Marlowe now that we’ve opened the tab. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves! Today, we’d still in the story “Trouble is My Business,” and we’re still in Scotch land – not a bad land to be within.
He opened the door, went out, shut it, and I sat there still holding the telephone, with my mouth open and nothing in it but my tongue and a bad taste on that.
I went out to the kitchen and shook the Scotch bottle, but it was still empty. I opened some rye and swallowed a drink and it tasted sour. Something was bothering me. I had a feeling it was going to bother me a lot more before I was through.
–Raymond Chandler, Trouble is My Business
November 10, 2020
He’s been relentlessly imitated (poorly, in the main), some dated by the years, and translated much in language and form, but somedays, you just get the urge to read a little of the real Raymond Chandler and slip into the gumshoe world of Philip Marlowe. At least I do! And recently I did take said slip and slipped into a few stories staring such and written by such. I’m not sure much intro is needed – if you don’t know Chandler, then let me say there’s not much I can say that hasn’t been said better by others, or even turned into a film that does the same. Let me just say that the book I picked up (I have pretty much the whole hard-boiled batch) is a story collection headlined by the story “Trouble is My Business,” and the below quote is from the same story, and is about talking and drinking Scotch, and that you should read past Raymond Chandler Cocktail Talks.
“She laughed disinterestedly and I slid past the end of her cigarette into a long rather narrow room with plenty of nice furniture, plenty of windows, plenty of drapes, plenty of everything. A fire blazed behind a screen, a big log on top of a gas teaser. There was a silk Oriental rug in front of a nice rose davenport in front of the nice fire, and beside that there was Scotch and swish on a tabouret, ice in a bucket, everything to make a man feel at home.
“You’d better have a drink,” she said. “You probably can’t talk without a glass in your hand.”
I sat down and reached for the Scotch. The girl sat in a deep chair and crossed her knees.
–Raymond Chandler, Trouble is My Business
October 27, 2020
Recently (just last week!) I had a Cocktail Talk from Qiu Xiaolong’s Death of a Red Heroine, which if you missed, you should read, and in the past, I’ve had Qiu Xiaolong Cocktail Talks, from it as well as other books featuring Xiaolong’s Chief Inspector Chen (and his partner Detective Yu, and other reoccurring characters), and you should read those Cocktail Talks, too, as well as reading the books they come from, if you’re interested in well-written mysteries, modern Chinese cultural expositions, classical Chinese poetry, or food, because all of that flows through the books like fine wine. Enigma of China is nearer the latter stages of the series (to date), and is a definite page turner. But where we’re Cocktail Talking from today is a part focused a little more on Wang Xizi than modern day, Wang being a poet from the Jin dynasty. Chen is visiting a place famous for Wang associations, and talks about a wine-poem game Wang and other poets played. A wine-poem game!
“It’s here. This is Lanting,” he exclaimed. “Wang and the other poets gathered at this stream, engaged in a wine-poem game.”
“A wine-poem game?
“They let wine cups flow down from the head of the stream. If a cup came to a stop in front of someone, he had to write a poem. If he failed to do so, he had to drink three cups as punishment. The poems were then collected, and Want composed a preface to the collection. He must have been very drunk, flourishing his brush pen inspired by the exquisite scene.
–Qiu Xiaolong, Enigma of China
October 20, 2020
I’ve had a Death of a Red Heroine Cocktail Talk post, years ago, and a few other Cocktail Talks from Qiu Xiaolong’s Chief Inspector Chen Cao series, which is a fantastic melding of police mysteries, poetry, epicurean delights, and great insights into changing Chinese culture starting in the late 80s, and focusing mainly on Shanghai, but moving around China here and there. They’re very enveloping and involving reads, and Death of a Red Heroine is the very first, and a fine (as you might guess) way to start the series – you’ll want to read them all, in a row. I recently (like I do with books I like lots) re-read it, and now am plowing fast into a few other Inspector Chen’s, too. And, I found another Cocktail Talk-worthy quote in the re-reading, which is both a good hangover note, and a good look into the books in a way, not that it comes from Chen (or his partner, the wonderful Detective Yu, who is a co-star really, with lots of plot coming from his point-of-view), but from a classic Chinese poet, as the books are dotted with quotes. This one is from Liu Yong, from the Song dynasty.
Where shall I find myself
Tonight, waking from the hangover –
The riverbank lined with weeping willows,
The moon sinking, the dawn rising on a breeze.
Year after year, I will be far,
Far away from you.
All the beautiful scenes are unfolding,
But to no avail:
Oh, to whom can I speak
Oh this ever-enchanting landscape?
–Liu Yong, quoted in Death of a Red Heroine, by Qiu Xiaolong
October 13, 2020
The third of our Cocktail Talks from the Trollope collection Early Short Stories (be sure to catch up on Part I and Part II, so as not to cause Trollope any sadness in the great library beyond) takes place in Rome, amongst a group of writerly and artistically and wannna-be ex-pats, and includes a little, oh, confused affection let’s say, and some bubbly, and some ruins, and Trollope’s eye into human foibles and drive, and ability to picture the 1800’s scene perfectly. Oh, before you pour the below though, don’t miss the array of past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, which are oodles of fun, too.
She did not come among us on the occasion of this banquet, possibly because we had no tables there to turn in preparation for her presence; but, had she done so, she could not have been more eloquent of things of the other world than was Mrs. Talboys. I have said that Mrs. Talboys’ eye never glanced more brightly after a glass of Champagne, but I am inclined to think that on this occasion it may have done so. O’Brien enacted Ganymede, and was, perhaps, more liberal than other latter-day Ganymedes, to whose services Mrs. Talboys had been accustomed. Let it not, however, be suspected by any one that she exceeded the limits of a discreet joyousness. By no means! The generous wine penetrated, perhaps, to some inner cells of her heart, and brought forth thoughts in sparkling words, which otherwise might have remained concealed; but there was nothing in what she thought or spoke calculated to give umbrage either to an anchorite or to a vestal. A word or two she said or sung about the flowing bowl, and once she called for ; but beyond this her converse was chiefly of the rights of man and the weakness of women; of the iron ages that were past, and of the golden time that was to come.
— Anthony Trollope, “Mrs. General Talboys”
October 6, 2020
Recently, I had a Cocktail Talk from a story within the Anthony Trollope collection called, easily enough, Early Short Stories, a collection I picked up not long before that posting, thereby getting my complete Trollope collection that much closer to actual completion (and it’s pretty close!). Just to take a peek into the breadth of the Trollopean shelves, don’t miss the past Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, and for that matter don’t miss the Negus-packed Early Short Stories Part I post. But don’t miss this one, either, which takes place in Spain, which we visit alongside our English narrator. It’s one of my favorite stories in the collection, a comedy story of sorts, but also with the eye for detail and place most Trollope stories contain, and having the nice below sherry description.
I landed at Cadiz, and was there joined by an old family friend, one of the very best fellows that ever lived. He was to accompany me up as far as Seville; and, as he had lived for a year or two at Xeres, was supposed to be more Spanish almost than a Spaniard. His name was Johnson, and he was in the wine trade; and whether for travelling or whether for staying at home—whether for paying you a visit in your own house, or whether for entertaining you in his—there never was (and I am prepared to maintain there never will be) a stauncher friend, choicer companion, or a safer guide than Thomas Johnson. Words cannot produce a eulogium sufficient for his merits. But, as I have since learned, he was not quite so Spanish as I had imagined. Three years among the bodegas of Xeres had taught him, no doubt, to appreciate the exact twang of a good, dry sherry; but not, as I now conceive, the exactest flavour of the true Spanish character. I was very lucky, however, in meeting such a friend, and now reckon him as one of the staunchest allies of the house of Pomfret, Daguilar, and Pomfret.
–Anthony Trollope, “John Bull On The Guadalquivir”
September 29, 2020
Oh, Anthony Trollope, what more can I say? I mean, I’ve had a whole bar’s worth of Anthony Trollope Cocktail Talk posts, with many words unfurled on my love of and like of nearly every book in the Anthony Trollope canon, as I own nearly every single book he wrote, which is saying something as he was prolific as apple pie (whatever that means; he wrote lots of books). But there are still a few books out in the book wild by Trollope that I don’t have, and every time I discover one, I am happy as, oh, a kid at their birthday. And guess what? The other day I did indeed find a Trollope book I didn’t have, the Early Short Stories collection. A couple stories in it I had read (in the Lotta Schmidt and Other Stories collection), but most I hadn’t, and it’s been a treat reading them, a treat! Many take place all-round-the-world, though the one we’re Cocktail Talk-ing today takes place in Ireland, where Trollope lived for years, and set a few early books, and is called “The O’Conors of Castle Conors,” and ends on a happy note and with at tray of . . . well, you’ll see below.
“And Patsey,” said she, “ride for your life; and Patsey, whatever you do, don’t come back without Mr. Green’s pumps—his dancing-shoes you know.”
And in about two hours the pumps did arrive; and I don’t think I ever spent a pleasanter evening or got more satisfaction out of a pair of shoes. They had not been two minutes on my feet before Larry was carrying a tray of Negus across the room in those which I had worn at dinner.
“The Dillon girls are going to stay here,” said Fanny as I wished her good night at two o’clock. “And we’ll have dancing every evening as long as you remain.”
— Anthony Trollope, “The O’Conors of Castle Conors”