Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Wednesday January 15, 2003

Filed under: General — m759 @ 11:11 PM

Mean Streets

The title of tonight’s “The West Wing” episode, “The Long Goodbye,” refers to a phrase that the sentimental do-gooders of the Democratic party apparently now use to refer to senility.   I find the phrase of more interest as it is used in the work of Raymond Chandler, where it has more to do with alcoholism than with Alzheimer’s.

Another memorable phrase from Chandler is found in his essay, “The Simple Art of Murder“:

“…down these mean streets a man must go
who is not himself mean….”

The phrase also occurs in the works of C. S. Lewis in an extended parable about Heaven and Hell:

The Great Divorce, Chapter One:

“I seemed to be standing in a busy queue by the side of a long, mean street. Evening was just closing in and it was raining. I had been wandering for hours in similar mean streets, always in the rain and always in evening twilight. Time seemed to have paused on that dismal moment when only a few shops have lit up and it is not yet dark enough for their windows to look cheering. And just as the evening never advanced to night, so my walking had never brought me to the better parts of the town.”

The most interesting part of this very interesting tale is summarized in an article on the work of Lewis:

“In the last chapter, Lewis sees a great assembly of motionless figures standing… around a silver table, watching the actvities of little figures that resembled chessmen:

‘And these chessman are men and women as they appear to themselves and to one another in this world. And the silver table is Time. And those who stand and watch are the immortal souls of these same men and women.'”

It is perhaps not completely irrelevant that Humphrey Bogart, who played Chandler’s detective “who is not himself mean,” loved chess and was born on Christmas Day.

A related religious meditation:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil, for I am the meanest son of a bitch in the valley.”

Karl Cullinane

in The Silver Crown, by Joel Rosenberg

1 Comment

  1. I had the greatest time reading all the quotes from your link to Michael Rostenberg’s quote page! Thank you.

    The Great Divorce is one of my favorite C.S. Lewis books, even above the Chronicles of Narnia.

    Comment by jkaucher — Saturday, January 18, 2003 @ 8:27 AM

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