The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

by Dashiell Hammett

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The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby Liz » Sun Feb 05, 2012 2:23 pm

The other reason why The Thin Man was banned in Canada…….


........and some say why it was such a huge best seller.

In Hammett’s bio I mentioned that it was banned in Canada because Nora and Nick appeared to be less than monogamous. But you probably guessed it was more than that. Their racy exchanges (for the times) were a major issue. But all of this garnered attention. And to fan those flames, publisher Alfred Knopf placed the following ad in the New York Times, on January 30, 1934, even signing it. See ad at top right corner:

Image

What was the question asked on page 192?

See for yourself:


NORA: Tell me something, Nick. Tell me the truth: when you were wrestling with Mimi, didn’t you have an erection?
NICK: Oh, a little.
NORA: (laughing) If you aren’t a disgusting old lecher.


Most subsequent editions (like the one we’ve read)--those not published by Knopf--altered the passage to:

“…when you were wrestling Mimi, didn’t you get excited?”


Sources:

Layman, Richard
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby SnoopyDances » Sun Feb 05, 2012 3:52 pm

Interesting.
I agree with the publishers, though. Why would someone buy a book just because of that?

Now if there were pictures.... :flirt:
But just a mention, well into the book....nope.

I think it was popular because the whole gangster, speakeasy, rich people gone wrong stuff.

It was the Great Depression. What were people doing for entertainment? Reading and going to movies. What were they watching/reading? Gangster and crime dramas.

Wasn't there a part in Public Enemies, either here or in the movie extras, that said even the gangsters were impersonating actors from the movies, not the other way around? They walked, talked and acted the way James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, etc., walked, talked and acted.

Anyway, I think it was popular because of the times and the subject matter. :ok: Not so sure it would be popular if published today. It would need more political overtones or terrorists or something.

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Feb 05, 2012 8:45 pm

I agree with Snoopy.

The book came out during the Great Depression. People's lives have been narrowed down to the size of pins. Not much is working for anyone, so let's dream huh? Let's disappear into a place where everything is beyond wonderful, murders and all. Breakfast in the hotel room, shakers full of drinks, going out to the speak every night, why even getting plugged seems glamorous, you know? I also think it captures kind of the rhythm of the time, the way people talked (or wanted to talk). That bantering style is pure moxie, you know? A strong offense is the best defense -- talk like you got a handle on it, and you can even convince yourself.

And one more thought. Although the life drawn by Hammett was kind of loose in terms of the morals of the day, there's no meanness in it, no real depravity, even as we read about the wonderful Wynant family. These are more cartoon characters who do say and do things that make you laugh as you read it
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby momindeppcamp » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:25 pm

fireflydances wrote:I agree with Snoopy.

The book came out during the Great Depression. People's lives have been narrowed down to the size of pins. Not much is working for anyone, so let's dream huh? Let's disappear into a place where everything is beyond wonderful, murders and all. Breakfast in the hotel room, shakers full of drinks, going out to the speak every night, why even getting plugged seems glamorous, you know? I also think it captures kind of the rhythm of the time, the way people talked (or wanted to talk). That bantering style is pure moxie, you know? A strong offense is the best defense -- talk like you got a handle on it, and you can even convince yourself.

And one more thought. Although the life drawn by Hammett was kind of loose in terms of the morals of the day, there's no meanness in it, no real depravity, even as we read about the wonderful Wynant family. These are more cartoon characters who do say and do things that make you laugh as you read it


Entertainment was censored back then but responsibly so. Though some thrirties stuff was risky. I kind of wish it was still censored. There seems to be no sense of propriety now. Liberation is one thing good sense is another. You never know what the little ones understand and what they do not when they are at home listening to Talk shows or when mom is watching a soap opera. They might as well remove the ratings for shows because it does not seem to matter anyways. Everything is the same on TV one show more outrageous than the other. At least the the theaters can keep the kids out of the R rated shows.

What Johnny is doing now seems to be a little more wholesome.

I do agree with you.
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby stroch » Sun Feb 05, 2012 9:50 pm

Witty dialogue, no responsibilities, charming and good looking couple ....I imagine readers could happily see themselves as Nick or Nora.

I wonder how many people read "Men of Good Will"?
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby fireflydances » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:35 pm

stroch wrote:Witty dialogue, no responsibilities, charming and good looking couple ....I imagine readers could happily see themselves as Nick or Nora.

I wonder how many people read "Men of Good Will"?


My eye caught that too, stroch. Of course I had to look it up. French. Twenty seven volumes when he finished it. Epic.
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby Buster » Sun Feb 05, 2012 10:56 pm

I also think it captures kind of the rhythm of the time, the way people talked (or wanted to talk).

My mother was very much enamoured with the cocktail wit that Hammett captures so accurately. There's a certain brittleness to it, kind of snarky without being cute, that actually can mask insecurity or perhaps even meanness. It's funny, very quick, but you'd never call it humane. Dorothy Parker was famous for taking it over the top, and actually ended up fairly short of friends at the end of her life.

It's an appealing veneer, but exhausting to live with. Though I must say, the idea of a life of leisure is pretty hard to sneer at.

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby Liz » Mon Feb 06, 2012 2:11 am

Interesting thoughts, everyone.

I think we could delve into this more during the discussion. I've been trying to figure out how to ask the question. Could even be two questions. Stay tuned.
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby nebraska » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:50 am

What is amusing is that I remember knowing exactly what Nora meant, and I am sure I have the "clean" version since my book is printed by Random House. And really, the "excited" version seems much more like something I would have expected her to say than the more clinical version.

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby ladylinn » Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:39 pm

Once the book was banned - it made it even more popular. Today we don't see much risque in the book. But during that time life was difficult coming out of the depression and this gave people a look at life of the rich and social. As in old black and white movies, smoking and drinking is very necessary for the main character.

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby magpie » Tue Feb 07, 2012 2:53 pm

Could I make a request? In addition to referencing the page number, please give the chapter also. I have a volume of Hammett's novels, The Thin Man being the last in the book. Thanks! (Btw, it's the racier version.)
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby nebraska » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:30 pm

magpie wrote:Could I make a request? In addition to referencing the page number, please give the chapter also. I have a volume of Hammett's novels, The Thin Man being the last in the book. Thanks! (Btw, it's the racier version.)

The page number didn't match in my edition, either, magpie. :-/ I was kind of going on memory but I wish I could find the quote.

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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby fireflydances » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:07 pm

nebraska wrote:
magpie wrote:Could I make a request? In addition to referencing the page number, please give the chapter also. I have a volume of Hammett's novels, The Thin Man being the last in the book. Thanks! (Btw, it's the racier version.)

The page number didn't match in my edition, either, magpie. :-/ I was kind of going on memory but I wish I could find the quote.


Didn't match mine either guys.
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:37 pm

Good suggestion since there are probably multiple versions of this book in print. It is on the last page of Chapter 25.
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Re: The Thin Man Tidbit #7 - Why was the book so popular?

Unread postby Theresa » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:39 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Good suggestion since there are probably multiple versions of this book in print. It is on the last page of Chapter 25.

Thanks, DITHOT! I'm reading on a Kindle, so I don't have any page numbers at all.


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