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SLEEPING WITH VIRGINIA WOOLF, DREAMING ABOUT A NAKED GIRL WITH LONG JADE EARRINGS

MAYBE YOUR READING habits are like mine? I always seem to have four or five books that I’m part way through. Whenever I finish one, I’ve added another to my on-again/off-again reading stack. 

One of these books is Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, the annotated version.

The Annotated Big Sleep, annotated and edited by Owen Hill, Pamela Jackson, and Anthony Dean Rizzuto, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2018.

Copious notations in this annotated book command my attention. I’ve watched the 1946 Bogart/Bacall flick enough times to know much of the book’s complex plot.

Today, tidbits are about sleeping with Virginia Woolf and dreaming about a naked girl with long jade earrings. (The naked girl is wearing the earrings, not me.)

The Dream. Philip Marlowe has just rescued the daffy Sternwood daughter from a porno shoot where there’s a pornographer’s dead body, and then there isn’t. No wonder Marlowe goes home and drinks too much hot toddy (annotation: “Whiskey mixed with hot water and sugar.”).

Marlowe says, “I went to bed full of whiskey and frustration and dreamed about a man in a bloody Chinese coat who chased a naked girl with long jade earrings while I ran after them and tried to take a photograph with an empty camera.” 

The scene, as depicted in The Big Sleep, 1946.

 Carmen Sternwood wasn’t naked in the movie, but I recognize the Chinese coat and long jade earrings.

Other Dreams. An annotation mentions Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, 1868, which both T.S. Eliot and Jorge Luis Borges call the first proper detective novel. 

This got me thinking of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841; The Mystery of Marie Rogȇt, 1842, and The Purloined Letter, 1845. These three feature C. Auguste Dupin in what Wikipedia calls “important early forerunners of the modern detective story.” No dream sequences, though.

My favorite dream is in Alfred Hitchcock’s psychoanalytic Spellbound, 1945; the scene designed by no less than Salvador Dali. The website artsy.net gives details of this Hitchcock/Dali collaboration. See also “Mickey and a Melting Watch?” for a Dali/Disney collaboration.

Dream sequence from Spellbound, 1945, by Alfred Hitchcock working with Salvador Dali. Source: Museum of Modern Art.

Woolf, Marlowe and Exclusion. Another annotation accompanies Marlowe’s musing on “big houses in ghostly enormous grounds, vague clusters of eaves and gables and lighted windows high on the hillside, remote and inaccessible like witch houses in a forest.”

Adeline Virginia Woolf née Stephen, 1882–1941, English writer. Wikipedia says Woolf is considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors, a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device. Photograph by George Charles Beresford, 1902.

The annotation cites A Room of One’s Own, 1929, in which Virginia Woolf writes, “What was the truth about these houses… dim and festive now with their red windows in dusk, but raw and red and squalid… at nine o’clock in the morning?” 

“Woolf,” observe the annotators, “comments from the outside, excluded from membership in patriarchal ‘Oxbridge’ by gender. Marlowe comments from the outside, excluded by class.”

With heady thought such as these, no wonder it takes me a while to finish a book. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

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