Book Review

Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Fredric Jameson

A pointless book for pointless people.

I often ask myself what I’m doing with my life. I live a very unfulfilled existence, and this long-running blog is both a) sign that things are pretty fucked, but also b) minor relief.

Me continuing to write this blog – and to some extent produce its visual spin-off, Triumph of the Now TV – is the writerly equivalent of an individual who is chronically and irrevocably depressed due to the lack of a meaningful relationship getting DEEPLY into wanking. Like literally spending as much time and money as people normally spend with/on a romantic/sexual partner on dildos/vibrators/sex dolls/fancy lubes/fleshlights etc.

This blog is – in some significant ways – stifling my creativity due to the time spent on it, while simultaneously satisfying my base, human, urge to write. The perennially single compulsive masturbator longs for a companion, but tells themself they’re getting huge sexual gratification so don’t really need one. That’s EXACTLY what this blog is for my writing.

I’m writing regularly and it is being read – god knows by who, but I do get hits – but it isn’t satisfying me in a meaningful way. The comparison with masturbation is apt, because Triumph of the Now is self-important without being self-serving; it is a fleeting pleasure that avoids the risk of rejection, yet living a life without risk means an absence of potential for real excitement. Just as the lonely wanker won’t fall in love by spending every night alone, wanking, I am not going to write great prose by tossing off 1000 words of self-centric “impressions” left by a book on a bi-weekly basis.

This blog does have value to me as an exercise, but that’s all it was meant to be. This blog is meant to be the regular writing exercise that keeps the more serious, more mature, writing in check. I kinda stopped doing the other stuff. And I’ll tell you why.

I am a [at the very least nominally] middle class, heterosexual, white, cisgendered man who’s had persistent mental health issues my entire adult life. No one would ever try to justify the existence of yet another fucking book about depressed middle class white men with literary ambitions. There are far too fucking many of them. (This blog is kinda that, isn’t it? Anyone want to publish a selection of blog posts? No, and nor should you.) There are far, far too many books in existence where white men look at the world with a sneer, or a glint, or a whimper or an intellectual superiority and cast judgement on it. I’m beginning to fear, sometimes, that even this blog itself is an agent of the patriarchy. I don’t want to be that – but by expressing my own opinions, even here, am I normalising white male expression and condescension? I know I’m not directly silencing female or non-white voices by being here, but I feel it is no longer definitely legitimate for me, or anyone like me, to be creating work. It’s a big fucking problem, really, as all I’ve ever wanted to do my whole life is write, but I no longer have any respect for anything I might be able to say. The struggle, I suppose, is finding an interesting way to say “I’ve got nothing interesting to say.” I’ve restarted therapy recently and that isn’t helping. I’m in that dip where things seem much worse due to looking at them properly again. It’s nice to be somewhere I feel able to speak, though. Other than on this blog I’m pretty silent, I don’t feel authorised to talk, I don’t feel comfortable expressing myself. Except when I’m drinking, which is why I only tend to do that on my own now. I don’t want to bore anyone with my pointless, white, male, opinions.

But the thing is, no one else is with me. Other white men who feel this weighty pressure to shut up – as we fucking should – respond to this with anger and aggression, lashing out and shouting and screaming and voting for far right, atavistic, political parties. Other men still put out pointless, irrelevant, useless books, and other pointless, irrelevant, useless men like me buy them and read them against our own better judgement. Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality is exactly this kind of pointless book. An overly serious, ridiculously self-important, academese-heady book discussing the pulp novels of Raymond Chandler as if they have the intellectual heft of fucking Mrs Dalloway.

Is anyone more white and male than the fucking pseuds1 this book has been written to appeal to?

A professor using long words and complicated theories to explore some books that are frequently sexist, racist and homophobic, a book published in 2016 with trendy design and sold in trendy bookshops, actively targeting men like me who enjoy reading old pulp but feel kinda guilty about it.

Jameson feels no guilt about liking Chandler. This book has not been written (slash compiled from earlier essays) as a justification for his interest in Chandler when Chandler’s work is broadly considered very simple, but in spite of this. This white man has no regret, no shame, that he is treating work made as populist entertainment as if it is serious, weighty, literature. There is a pomposity to this, an absolute lack of self-awareness, there is no point where Jameson says: “But, obviously, these books are pretty trashy and I’ve kinda wasted my life by treating them as if they’re not”.

The book makes some interesting points (within the context of a book about Chandler) and is delivered with an intellectual fervour that is sometimes quite engaging. However, a 100 page novel of academic prose on the novels of Raymond Chandler is a fucking pointless project, published to help undergraduates write dull essays no one’s gonna read other than their professor, or to help pointless men like me pretend that the trash we read is of as much value as the real books we read. It’s utter bullshit, self-important, Chandler-aggrandising and the academic Jameson-aggrandising. This book doesn’t deal with any topics of any importance to the modern age, and it does so by pretending that these piddly little pulpy novels (I’m being dismissive because I do feel guilty for enjoying Chandler like all non-bad people surely must) are worthy of over-intellectualised, academic attention.

There is no point to this book, but having willingly and kinda excitedly bought it, I must ask myself if this means that I myself am pointless, too. It’s a pointless book for pointless people, and as a sad, failing, flailing, bald man I know that I’m the target demographic and I bought something that was absolutely aimed at me. I’m irrelevant.

I’m irrelevant.

(Book not recommended.)

1. “Fucking pseuds” – the go-to insult the world over from people from didn’t get into to an elite university and never really got over it. 

6 comments on “Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality by Fredric Jameson

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  3. bawbtherevelator

    Around 50-years ago, Mike Nichols and Elaine May did a comedy album — one “bit” being a colloquy between a pair of pseudos

    He: “Wasn’t it ugly about Kafka?”
    She:”The tragic end of a great writer!”
    He: “Yes! Freezing to death!
    She: “Alone! On a park bench!”
    He: “A bench lke those in Central Park West,”
    She: “Ugly, wasn’t it?”
    He: “YES! UGLY! UGLY! UGLY!”
    She: “YES! YES! YES!!!”

    long pause……..THEN:

    He: “Mind moving over? I’m falling off this couch!!!”


    Maybe Fred’s a terrific guy who feeds the homeless and writes scathing anti-Donald Trump OP-Eds – though I doubt this in the extreme. I took a U.S.C.. PhD , became a Shrink and then a mediator – UNTIL my Great Novel was done. Never happened – but “Next Best” still ain’t bad for a spastic [yes: CEREBRAL PALSY!] Jew-Boy with a chain-saw stammer.

    Point?? Go volunteer at some homeless shelter AND find out enough about Fred Jameson’s niche in order to write a scathing New York [or London] Review dissection of this asshol’e’s pretentiousness. If so, you’ll be the first and scads of chick will immediately.follow. It’s as inevitable as The Withering Away of the State 🙂

    Cheers an’ ‘at

    Bawb the Revelator

    Liked by 2 people

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