Raymond Chandler's gumshoe Marlowe has often been described as an existential outsider. I'm reading Judith Freeman's book about Marlowe's marriage to a much older woman, Cissy, The Long Embrace, at the moment. On pp.79-80 she makes an interesting point about Chandler's Los Angeles, how it embodied a new kind of American loneliness where people
'found themselves marooned in paradise, lonely amidst abundance and incredible wealth, lonely in a seemingly incurable fashion, lonely in spite of the crowds and opportunities, because suddenly they had been cut off from their past, from all that was familiar and had given meaning and shape to their lives, a widespread feeling that took hold in large numbers of people'
Out of this world of lonely people, the fast food joint emerged:
'Fast food is about estrangement and existential ennui, about loneliness, and boredom, and absence, and an arresting of traditional patterns of family life and social context. Who cares if the meal is inferior? If it gets you out in the world? If it gives you something to do? And the chance of meeting other people.'
Yes. Possibly. There must be a reason that French existentialism emerged out of the French equivalent of the fast food joint, the Parisian café...Lonely people smoking Gauloises and keeping warm chatting to each other.
And reassuring that there is no intrinsic link between inferior quality food and the conditions out of which an existentially rich art emerges...