This is the American view of the Poirot-style detective, a distant descendant of Sherlock Holmes (the id and ego become more divided with each iteratiThis is the American view of the Poirot-style detective, a distant descendant of Sherlock Holmes (the id and ego become more divided with each iteration of the formula; hermit Nero Wolfe is quite extreme). It has a good murder mystery at its heart and quirky, interesting, and larger than life characters.
I particularly liked the book for two personal reasons. First, it is set in places from my youth--Tarrytown, White Plains, Pleasantville, Armonk, and New York City, and on roads I know well. Second, Archie Goodwin speaks with idioms that remind me of my grandfather's speech, a product of hard living in the 30's....more
I've read most of her mysteries, and this one stands out as very different from them and most similar to her Children of Men apocalytic fiction novel.I've read most of her mysteries, and this one stands out as very different from them and most similar to her Children of Men apocalytic fiction novel. It has a lot of fantastic meditation on growing old, old guilt, and old choices; some serious tone-deafness towards religion, ethnicity, and sex; a pleasantly ambiguous series of muders, investigations, and genre-cliches; and an absolutely horrifying set of concluding chapters that elevate the book but which I wish I hadn't read....more
The first Boxcar Children book was classic and precious. My children love this sequel and the writing is good, but the plot / structure is disturbinglThe first Boxcar Children book was classic and precious. My children love this sequel and the writing is good, but the plot / structure is disturbingly insane. Really, not that cuddly madcap Nesbit/Lewis kind of insane that you can get away with in a children's book.
Why does the grandfather leave them alone on an island with a strange man? That's just creepy. Every time that mystery Joe takes little Violet down to the shack for a private violin lesson I freak out.
The children almost drown, trapped in a cave filling with water at high tide. I didn't need to read that before bed time, and I'm 37 years old. They eat bread and milk at every meal as if it is some kind of religious rite (literature students solemnly inform me that this symbolizes communion; I think that it is a super sketchy diet.)...more
I think that Mary Norton just lost it by this point. Great borrower hijinks, fun descriptions and imagery, and then a seriously bonkers literary strucI think that Mary Norton just lost it by this point. Great borrower hijinks, fun descriptions and imagery, and then a seriously bonkers literary structure. Ghosts are set up quite deliberately and then never actually enter the plot. Why are there the horrifying ghosts of a murder-suicide in the middle of a nominally children's book?
Spiller and Peagreen are set up as romantic rivals for Arietty, and then aluded tension never even arrives, let alone resolves by the end of the series. We spend the first half of the book (even more than usual!) setting up a plot line around humans and avenging the borrowers. That is then abandoned until some half-assed wrapup in the last few mini-chapters.
Not a spectacular finish for a series that was otherwise fantastic....more
At his best (which is frequent), David Foster Wallace's writing is untouchable. These essays comprise many of the themes of Infinite Jest in a more apAt his best (which is frequent), David Foster Wallace's writing is untouchable. These essays comprise many of the themes of Infinite Jest in a more approachable and frankly appreciable package. E Unibus Pluram (essay #2) is the most insightful piece of sociology-psychology-literary-criticism that I've ever encountered in a reading career not light on such things. It supplants whole degree programs, let alone college courses on the stuff.
At his worst, he is a brilliant but insufferable writer with a bit of tone-deafness that betrays his youth and male, WASP bias. This usually happens when he's being racy in (early) essays that merited better editing. It's also fairly infrequent but pervasive.
Most of the essays contain laugh-out-loud funny remarks delivered straight, crushing tragic observations, and top-notch writing throughout. The essays begin and end weakly. The compilation itself also begins and ends weakly, with the titular and closing essay apparently "phoned in". This seems consistent across all of his work.
The tennis essays make anyone a fan. There are beautiful parallel constructions of lit-crit/Don DeLillo and film-crit/David Lynch in adjacent essays. In fact, the Lynch essay implicitly clarifies an awful lot about Wallace's fiction. The pseudo-sociological approach to the Illinois State fair is touchingly hilarous. I appreciate that he injects autobiographical information that is often completely fabricated and contradicted by other essays--I don't think he intends them to act as his autobiographical notes after all, but as yours. ...more
Carefully and brilliantly researched and passably written, this book is compelling because it is accurate, mostly objective, and real. The style and cCarefully and brilliantly researched and passably written, this book is compelling because it is accurate, mostly objective, and real. The style and content are reminiscent of early (good) Clancy: Red Storm Rising and Hunt for Red October (except that this is nonfiction, of course!). By compelling, I mean that I read it in one day, and had there been another five volumes I would have kept on going.
An ironic moral of the book is that even in a democracy (or perhaps especially; voters are fickle), a people's greatest danger is often the members of their own government. That the Kennedys and Kruschev were able to trust each other at the end more than opposing political forces in their own countries is both disturbing and borderline treasonous, but perfectly rational in the telling.
The book makes clear how the specific leaders involved and the awkward stages of technology conspired to create a hopefully unique situation. Had global telecommunications and espionage been more sophisticated this could have been more robustly avoided, and had the idiocy of nuclear weapons been more clear perhaps it would not have escalated as badly as it did.
(view spoiler)[ History is more shocking than fiction in some cases, even if you are familiar with the general outline of the crisis. The Soviets and Cubans were storing and transporting nuclear warheads in incredibly unsafe ways. The U.S. arsenal was largely running without safeguards--a single 25-year old solidier or pilot could have launched a nuclear missile had he become too jumpy (although it isn't clear that safeguards would have helped since the U.S. command was run by the real-life inspirations for characters in Dr. Strangelove, i.e., war-mongering lunatics). And on the front lines of the U.S. invasion force and the Soviet-Cuban defenses, troops were armed with battlefield nuclear weapons in cruise and short-range missiles, not just medium and long-range ballistic missiles. This wasn't just about whether a world leader would push a "red button"--troops were facing off with science fiction arms and in some cases hours from using them. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more