Thursday, September 26, 2013


However slowly, I've been reading The Maltese Falcon again, and I just finished the Flitcraft Parable.  I'm reminded that Flitcraft's disappearance was not the principal, or not the only, reason that I identified with him, as a personal fantasy.  The very non-fantastical part I identified with was the heart of the story:  a beam falling from several stories hit the sidewalk just next to him on his way to lunch.  He felt like somebody "took the lid off life and let him look at the works."  Furthermore, the part of tale that Spade "always liked":  "He adjusted himself to beams falling.  And then no more of them fell.  Then adjusted himself to them not falling."  It is this brush with death, the awareness of one's own mortality, that resonates with me.  One takes life for granted until something that can kill you reminds you that you can die at any moment, and you "adjust" yourself to this awareness.  But the reminders aren't perpetual, so you go back to your default perspective and forget your mortality.  I think I've always found Hammett a soulmate because he was tubercular; that is, he lived with an illness.  Indeed, the reason he began writing as a career was because, around the age of 30, he knew writing was something he always wanted to do and he didn't expect to live much longer, certainly not well into his 50's as he did.  I certainly feel reckless in that I do not often enough take heed of Hammett's lesson.

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