Lobby of a cheap hotel, 1930s

At one o’clock in the morning, Carl, the night porter, turned down the last of three table lamps in the main lobby of the Windermere Hotel. The blue carpet darkened a shade or two and the walls drew back into remoteness. The chairs filled with shadowy loungers. In the corners were memories like cobwebs.

– Raymond Chandler, opening of the short story “I’ll Be Waiting”

How light retreats from a room – an interesting challenge for a writer. Notice in the last two sentences that the literal and imagined weirdly switch places. The loungers aren’t shadowy, they ARE shadows. There are memories in the corners like cobwebs, but probably some real cobwebs too.

(Posted on FB June 21, 2014)

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Parker was plankton in the Hollywood food chain.

— John Buntin, LA Noir

This line is a nifty parody of tough-guy detective prose, and an example of how to re-purpose a stock metaphor. The “food chain” has been around since 1920.

“Food chain” is a strangely clunky metaphor (or clanky) when you consider it’s meant to illustrate a principle of life science — i.e., that species depend on other species like links in a chain, with the chain failing as a whole if a single link is broken. Clunky or not, the chain metaphor is lively enough to link plankton to an organism named William Parker, who was known within the department as Whiskey Bill and later became LA’s legendary chief of police.

(Posted on FB June 19, 2014)