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December 2, 2008

Book Notes - Judith Freeman ("The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

Newly released in paperback, Judith Freeman's The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved was my favorite literary biography published last year. The book humanizes the iconic author through his relationship to his wife Cissy.

In her own words, here is Judith Freeman's Book Notes essay for her book, The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved:

I listened to a lot of music while working on The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved, often while driving around Los Angeles tracking down the thirty-six different addresses where Raymond Chandler and his wife Cissy lived. Chandler married Cissy in 1924 when he was 35 and she was 53, though she listed her age as 43 on the marriage certificate and it wasn’t until much later he figured out he’d married a much older woman. She was sexy and witty---“irresistible,” as he put it, “without much knowing or caring about it”---and he was romantic, but as she aged he ended up taking care of her. They moved constantly and lead very cloistered lives. I wanted to listen to older music that would evoke the 1930s and 40s---movie soundtracks as well as the classical music they used to listen to every night on The Gas Company Classical Hour. L.A., the city Chandler once called the Crackpot Capitol of the World, is the perfect place for listening to music in a car.

Jerry Goldsmith’s sound track from the movie Chinatown. The Chinatown theme really captures the haunting feeling of loneliness in L.A.---the kind of loneliness that plagued both Chandler and his fictional creation, Philip Marlowe. Robert Towne, the screenwriter for Chinatown, said he got the idea for the movie after reading an article on Chandler.

“Someone to Watch Over Me,” Ella Fitzgerald’s version on Album Gold. That’s what Chandler did: he watched over Cissy, just as she helped keep him sane and sober.

Herman Hupfeld’s song, “You Must Remember This.” The soundtrack from Casablanca. Chandler worked in Hollywood from 1942-46, and there are some great classical movie scores by Antoine Duhamel, Mark Ribot, Tomasz Stanko, Stefanio Battaglia that capture a certain feeling of Hollywood at its best. There’s a good Nat King Cole rendition of this song, too. The Chandlers lived in Hancock Park in the late 1920s and later Nat King Cole would become the first black man to live in this upscale neighborhood. It’s a timeless song with great lyrics:

Moonlight and love songs never out of date
Hearts full of passion, jealousy, and hate
Woman needs man, and man must have his mate
That no one can deny

Mozart: Soundtrack from Amadeus. In his short story “I’ll Be Waiting” (1939), Chandler wrote that he thought Mozart was the greatest composer that ever lived, and Toscanini was his prophet.

Benny Goodman: In the same story, “I’ll Be Waiting,” the main character, Miss Cressy (think Cissy) is listening to Benny Goodman in the radio room off the lobby of the hotel where she’s staying. The big band sound isn’t my favorite, but it did set a mood.

Frank Sinatra, “My Funny Valentine,” from Frank Sinatra Sings Rogers and Hart.

Five Easy Pieces movie soundtrack. Tammy Wynette’s version of “Stand By Your Man.” That’s what Cissy did for 30 years, even when Chandler strayed and had affairs.

Soundtrack for 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould.

Johnny Hartman, the Priceless Jazz collection. His version of “You Are Too Beautiful” and “They Say It’s Wonderful.”

Dinah Washington, with Clifford Brown, especially the cut, “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

Bach, Suites for Solo Cello, Janos Starker.

Chopin. Cissy was a pianist and after Chandler made some money and bought a Steinway for her she used to play Chopin for him in the evening.

Sarah Vaughan, Sarah for Lovers. “My One and Only Love” could be the theme song for the book.

Judith Freeman and The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved links:

the author's website
the author's blog
excerpt from the book

Berkshire Review review
Chicago Sun-Times review
Curled Up with a Good Book review
The Fake Angeleno review
Houston Chronicle review
LA Cityzine review
Los Angeles Times review
New York Times review
NPR review
Planet Peschel review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Online "Best Books of 2008" Lists
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Why Obama (musicians and authors explain their support of the Democratic presidential candidate's campaign)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)

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