Monday, July 14, 2014


A couple of people have drawn my attention to a blog titled “Tom Pynchon’s Liquor Cabinet: Every drink in every Pynchon novel” which strikes me as a great idea that hasn’t been fully realized in its current form, not as yet anyhow.  

The blogger (apparently male and in Australia) tries some chianti in honor of a mention in V, “The Chianti is tasty stuff.” He writes, “Sweet but pretty tannin-ey on the tongue. Basically tastes like wine.” Which seems less than helpful.  Maybe it’ll get into its stride later.

Me and the other members of my own old sick crew decided that Raymond Chandler’s Liquor Cabinet might be a more intriguing prospect.  Within the first few pages of our introduction to Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep, he’s knocking back slugs of brandy which he likes “any way at all.”  His client, General Sternwood, can no longer drink but recalls that he used to like his brandy with Champagne “as cold as valley forge.”  Sounds good to me.

Self- referential you think?

Anyway, for quite different reasons, I’ve been re-reading Chandler’s The High Window and there’s a scene where Marlowe thinks he’s being followed and goes into the Tigertail Lounge (Chandler’s invention), where he sits in a “shallow booth” and orders a martini and a sandwich.  There’s no mention of what kind of sandwich, which is perhaps not all that odd: Marlowe is more interested in drink than food.

But I do find myself wondering what kind of sandwich goes with a martini.  None that I can think of.  The Loved One suggested maybe a pastrami sandwich because the intensity of the alcohol would cut through the greasiness of the meat, and that may be true, but I always find I need plenty of liquid with a pastrami sandwich – like a pint of beer.  A martini’s going to run out far too soon.  Maybe something more delicate would be better.  Smoked salmon?  Cucumber?  Not very hardboiled, I realize.

And then yesterday in the New York Time magazine, there were (some rather heated) extracts from Warren Harding’s letters to his mistress Carrie Fulton Phillips, written in the ten years before he became president in 1920. On January 2nd 1913 he wrote, “I stopped play to have sandwiches and crack a bottle of wine, so I could dwell with my thoughts. You can guess where they centered — on the New Year’s beginning a year before, when the bell rang the chorus while our hearts sang the rapture without words and we greeted the New Year from the hallowed heights of heaven. . . .”  It goes on.

Again, no mention of what kind of sandwich he “stopped play” to have, but at least he thought he needed a bottle of wine to go with it. 

Warren Harding gets a bad rap in political circles, and hasn’t left us with many quotable lines.  But he did once say, “Only solitary men know the full joys of friendship. Others have their family; but to a solitary and an exile his friends are everything.”  That could have been written by Chandler about Marlowe, though I don’t think Marlowe actually had any friends at all.


  1. Eating everything that gets eaten in GRAVITY'S RAINBOW would have been more of a challenge....