"Espresso! My Espresso!"
An Ongoing Internet Novelette
by Randy Glass - Copyright 2012 - All rights reserved
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Coffee in Literature - Philip Marlowe
Sunday, July 1, 2012
From time to time a participant on one of the coffee forums will create a "spotted in the movies" post describing an espresso machine used in a scene. In my experience I usually see either a super-auto (most recently in "Modern Family") or something like a Francis! Francis! in bright orange. There have certainly been many others, and I only offer those as examples.
My reading rarely mentions any details about coffee. With Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and the writings of P.G. Wodehouse it is nearly always tea, and I have previously talked about coffee in the American Civil War. More recently I have been reading those works of Raymond Chandler which revolve around his literary detective, Phillip Marlowe. Although not always using that name for the lead character, the traits are generally the same: educated, multi-lingual, a serious student of the game of chess, and fighting for the little guy's rights. These were unique traits for the pulp fiction magazine detectives where his stories first appeared. Phillip also probably took more blows to the head causing unconsciousness than any character in the history of literature; sometimes two or three times in one story.
Chandler is also known for the acerbic wit and biting social commentary he gave Marlowe. Lines like:
“Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off.”
“Some days I feel like playing it smooth. Some days I feel like playing it like a waffle iron.”
"Americans will eat anything if it is toasted and held together with a couple of toothpicks and has lettuce sticking out of the sides, preferably a little wilted.”
He also slipped in a number of double entendre lines (some bordering on single entendre) like, "She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.”
If you enjoy those, check out GoodReads.com where you will find a number of pages of quotes from his books as well as from the author himself.
Excerpt from The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler:
I left him with that bright chatter and went out to the kitchen at the back. I turned the hot water on and got the coffee maker down off the shelf. I wet the rod and measured the stuff into the top and by that time the water was steaming. I filled the lower half of the dingus and set it on the flame. I set the upper part on top and gave it a twist so it would bind.
The coffee maker was almost ready to bubble. I turned the flame low and watched the water rise. It hung a little at the bottom of the glass tube. I turned the flame up just enough to get it over the hump and then turned it low again quickly. I stirred the coffee and covered it. I set my timer for three minutes. Very methodical guy, Marlowe, Nothing must interfere with his coffee technique. Not even a gun in the hand of a desperate character...
I did a fast wash-up in the bathroom and the bell of the timer went just as I got back. I cut the flame and set the coffee maker on a straw mat on the table. Why did I go into such detail? Because the charged atmosphere made every little thing stand out as a performance, a movement distinct and vastly important. It was one of those hypersensitive moments when all your automatic movements, however long established, however habitual, become separate acts of will. You are like a man learning to walk after polio. You take nothing for granted, absolutely nothing at all.
The coffee was all down and the air rushed in with its usual fuss and the coffee bubbled and then became quiet. I removed the top of the maker and set it on the drainboard in the socket of the cover.
I poured two cups and added a slug to his. “Black for you, Terry.” I added two lumps of sugar and some cream to mine. I was coming out of it by now. I wasn’t conscious of how I opened the Frig and got the cream carton.
Makes me want to put on my fedora, don a trench coat, drop a .32 semi-auto into the pocket, pull down the Silex and make a pot of coffee!