I've been looking for a new mystery-detective series and was intrigued when I came across a review of one of Jane Casey's novels (I forget where or of...moreI've been looking for a new mystery-detective series and was intrigued when I came across a review of one of Jane Casey's novels (I forget where or of which novel). I I was impressed with The Burning, Casey's second novel, the first in her series featuring DC Maeve Kerrigan. I see that other readers were disappointed that this wasn't a more traditional serial killer/thriller but, to me, this is one of The Burning's many strengths. DC Kerrigan is part of a large team investigating a serial killer (dubbed The Burning Man) who has killed four young women. Kerrigan's role is, to be put it mildly, peripheral. Part of what makes The Burning interesting is watching Kerrigan try to distinguish herself in an investigation that, aside from being a complete sausage-fest, is comprised of men of equal or greater rank, most of whom have their own, self-serving agendas. Everyone is jockeying to make or protect their reputation and leaving Kerrigan all but sidelined until a fifth victim is found. Some of the details at the crime scene seem out-of-character for The Burning Man and Kerrigan is assigned to investigate the victim's background to help determine whether or not the murder is the work of a copy-cat. In essence, then, The Burning, is the story of a smaller investigation within a larger, more urgent, investigation.
I won't get into any plot details here save to say that it could have been a bit tighter in places and that I had a few minor quibbles with Casey's use of split-narrative (mostly DC Kerrigan and Louise -- one of the fifth victim's friends). In a series debut, though, I am more interested in characterizations than plotting anyway and Casey's character work is excellent. DC Kerrigan is definitely a protagonist I look forward to following: Casey makes her believable, likable, and unique without relying, as so many mystery writers do, on a combination of quirks, hobbies, and personal demons. Even more promising, Casey does well with her secondary and minor characters -- the area where strong writing tends to distinguish itself. I'll definitely be reading more in the series and hope Casey is able to stay true to her characters while improving her plotting skills.(less)
This is a fascinating, even riveting, account of how the first novel to attempt an uncensored depiction of the full spectrum of human thought and expe...moreThis is a fascinating, even riveting, account of how the first novel to attempt an uncensored depiction of the full spectrum of human thought and experience was conceived, written, published, banned, burned, smuggled, pirated and -- finally -- became the basis for the court decisions that overturned decades of prudish, restrictive obscenity laws and opened the door for the freedoms of expression we enjoy today. The first five paragraphs are a masterful hook, demonstrating with striking clarity just what an unusual book Ulysses is--not only for its contents but for virtually every other aspect of its early existence.
Unlike so many of the books written about Ulysses over the years, this is not another dry academic tome of interest only to Joyce devotees and scholars. Birmingham's writing is lively, often bursting with infectious enthusiasm. And with good reason. Even readers with little or no interest in Ulysses are sure to find the cast of historical characters (famous and little-known) colorful and fascinating. Alongside expected figures like Joyce, Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and Sylvia Beach, are the suffragists, anarchists, socialists, socialiates, printers, publishing pirates, attorneys and judges who each played a role in defying the ban on Ulysses -- or trying to uphold it. My only complaint about The Most Dangerous Book -- and it is minor -- is that the scope of the epilogue is confined mostly to Ulysses itself and does not touch on what came next for its cast of characters. There is sense in Birmingham's choice, though, for Ulysses itself (even more than its creator) is the hero of The Most Dangerous Book. Some of the most charming and touching moments in Birmingham's book are to be found in accounts of how Ulysses worked on readers from the inside out over time: the writers, critics, lawyers, judges, and would-be publishers who were initially unimpressed, repulsed, or baffled, found themselves unexpectedly won over by Ulysses.
The Most Dangerous Book is a passionate reminder that the same novel many of today's readers avoid because of its reputation for difficulty or recall with loathing years after they grappled with its many challenges as undergrads, once engendered enough love and devotion to make it the center of a decade-long battle for the right to create art that expresses any truth about life we might wish to express -- and to be able to expose ourselves such works of art -- without fear of fine or imprisonment. As Birmingham reminds us, obscenity laws still exist but before the lifting of the ban on Ulysses the presence of a single obscene word or "pornographic" scene was enough to justify the outright censorship of a book, regardless of any artistic merit within the text as a whole. Now, thankfully, that standard is reversed and the list of works we are able to enjoy as a result is beyond measure.(less)
A remarkably sure-handed debut. Darkly funny. Interesting that McDonagh's first effort featu...more"That's Ireland, anyways. There's always someone leaving."
A remarkably sure-handed debut. Darkly funny. Interesting that McDonagh's first effort features two female leads when so much of his later work is centered on men. Also fun to see McDonagh playing with the conventions (and traditions and stereotypes) of his native Ireland. (less)
Would love to find a higher quality edition (assuming one exists) with clearer prints -- the original images are murky and atmospheric as it is. That...moreWould love to find a higher quality edition (assuming one exists) with clearer prints -- the original images are murky and atmospheric as it is. That said these are phenomenal photographs; essential (even definitive) images of Paris in the '30s. Iconic photos of an iconic time and place. Brassai's essays on various aspects of Paris are also wonderful. I particularly enjoyed his accounts of the Ancient Guild of Cesspool Cleaners, the argot of the criminal underworld (police were given the names of birds: partridges=criminal investigators; swallows=police on bicycles, etc), and Le Monocle "one of the first temples of Sapphic love" where all the female staff dressed as men.(less)
Spent a morning glossing and perusing this book. I'd only known Brassai as a photographer (his photos of Picasso and his studio and circle of friends...moreSpent a morning glossing and perusing this book. I'd only known Brassai as a photographer (his photos of Picasso and his studio and circle of friends would make this a fascinating book by themselves) so I was pleasantly surprised to find that he also writes well. Clear, concise, evocative accounts of conversations and gatherings (based on notes Brassai jotted down at the time and then stuffed in a large vase) make up the bulk of this book.(less)