Lines I enjoyed from The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Here is a review by way of quotation.  I think it’s fair to say that The Big Sleep was the novelistic progenitor of noir, and established a tough-edged and metaphor heavy voice as the de facto narrative tone of the hardboiled genre. 

It’s also a book that has got by on its style rather than its substance: but that’s not the backhanded compliment it sounds, because Chandler was a master of style. The novel has some depth (there’s a fixation with opening and closing doors that’s both visually interesting and metaphorically loaded: an opened door can be a scintillating invitation or an act of trespass and violence; in Chandler’s mind, both at once.  Plus some protagonists are now firmly established genre archetypes, and it’s always nice to know where these things come from); but, let’s be honest, I read The Big Sleep to earn literary cool points – The Big Sleep being the academically acceptable face of pulp fiction.

I enjoyed it.  The best way I can give a real sense of the book is with some lines; so here are some of my favourites:

Her calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem.


‘I’ll take him out’ I said ‘He’ll think a bridge fell on him.’


‘She was worth a stare.  She was trouble’


She was as limp as a fresh killed rabbit.


‘Have you told me the complete story?’

‘I left out a couple of personal matters; I intend to keep leaving them out.’


‘She ain’t here.’  The voice was as stiff as a breadstick.


‘I don’t mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a scotch bottle.  I don’t mind your

showing me your legs.  They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance.’ 


His glass eye shone brightly up at me, and was by far the most lifelike thing about him.


Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.


He sounded like a man who had slept well, and didn’t owe too much money.


‘Yes, I like roulette.  All the Sternwoods like losing games, like roulette… and marrying men that walk out on them and riding steeplechases at fifty-eight years old and being rolled on by a jumper and crippled for life.  The Sternwoods have money.  All it has bought them is a rain cheque.’


‘You can call me Vivian.’

‘Thank you; Mrs Regan.’


 Geiger was living with the punk I got outside in my car.  I mean living with him, if you get the idea.


‘She’d make a jazzy weekend!  But she’d be wearing for a steady diet.’


It was raining hard. Again.  I walked into it with the heavy drops slapping my face.  When one of them touched my tongue I knew that my mouth was open and the ache at the side of my jaws told me it was open wide and strained back, mimicking the rictus of death carved upon the face of Harry Jones.




11 responses to “Lines I enjoyed from The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

  1. I really like your “review by way of quotation” idea. “The Big Sleep” sounds like a book I’ll have to pick up one of these days.

  2. I love this book. It’s just infinitely quotable. I’d forgotten some of those lines. I did particularly like:

    “He sounded like a man who had slept well, and didn’t owe too much money.”

    So laconic.

  3. “she gave me one of those smiles the lips have forgotten before they reach the eyes” – loved this line. Just finished this, a real pleasure to drown in that cool style and as you say, see where some of the classic ideas of the genre stem from

  4. Pingback: The High Window by Raymond Chandler « Pile o' Books

  5. Great stuff, Tomcat. I reread The Big Sleep at the beginning of this year (pre-blog, so I didn’t review) and I can still recall some of these quotes. Love these two:

    ‘She was worth a stare. She was trouble’

    I don’t mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a scotch bottle. I don’t mind your showing me your legs. They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance.’

  6. Pingback: Recommended Reading: The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler — BlogDailyHerald

  7. This prompted me to peruse about half of The Drowning Pool – 133 pages or so – to see how many similes I could count. (I’m using the Vintage Crime Black Lizard edition from May 1996). I counted thirty four and no doubt missed a few. I haven’t done the legwork, but I think some of the later books might have a slightly higher ratio. That’s a lot, but in any case I would argue that many of Macdonald’s similes are so strong that they infinitely enrich the work. Not only that – they are so strong that they put many “serious” writers of fiction to shame.

  8. Pingback: The Long Good-bye by Raymond Chandler | JacquiWine's Journal

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