Jan 15, 2008
really liked it
Philippe Soupault's Last Nights of Paris
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 25, 2017
The last review I wrote, finished today, was one o review of
Philippe Soupault's Last Nights of Paris
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - October 25, 2017
The last review I wrote, finished today, was one of Bruce Sterling's Heavy Weather wch I began by writing: "I keep picking on Cyberpunk writing in much the same way I pick on Surrealist writing. At the same time that I like it in theory I'm annoyed by it in praxis." ( https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) The point is that most Surrealist writing that I read doesn't strike me as Surrealist enough - but, then, I don't read much Surrealist writing anymore so I'm usually dependent of my memory of it.
This might be the 1st Surrealist novel I've read since Lisa Goldstein's The Dream Years read in April of this yr & that doesn't really qualify. Before that, the 1st bk I finished reading in 2009 might fit the bill: Giorgio de Chirico's Hebdomeros: With Monsieur Dudron's Adventure and Other Metaphysical Writings.. or maybe not. Even this novel doesn't fit into the category if one takes Soupault's expulsion from the Surrealists before its writing seriously.
William Carlos Williams, the poet, translated it & I think he did an excellent job. However, he refers to it as a "Dadaist novel" & I think that's even further off the mark than its being a Surrealist one is. The "Publisher's Note" has this to say:
"Co-author with André Breton of the first self-proclaimed book of automatic writing, Les Champs Magnétiques (1919), and co-editor with Breton and Louis Aragon of the avant-garde journal Lttérature (1919—1923), Philippe Soupault was one of the founders of the Surrealist movement. A poet, novelist, and journalist, with a much less political and less theoretical approach to writing than his colleagues Breton and Aragon, Soupault was expelled from the movement in 1926—along with Antonin Artaud—for "their isolated pursuit of the stupid literary adventure." Les Dernièrs Nuits de Paris was his third prose work, published in 1928." - p v
"Indeed, Last Nights of Paris seems to share much with both the Surrealist novels (Nadja, Paris Peasant) and the American expatriate novels (The Great Gatsby, The Day of the Locust) of its day." - p vi
"both the Surrealist novels"? Does that mean that it's commonly thought that there were only two? I've read them both & didn't find either very Surreal. As I've probably overstated by now I find Raymond Roussel's novels far more Surreal than anything the Surrealists ever wrote. As for "the American expatriate novels"?
Ok, The Great Gatsby was published on April 10, 1925 while the Fitzgeralds were traveling in Europe a few weeks before they settled in Paris but he began planning it in 1923 when he was still in New York. The Day of the Locust (1939) was written when Nathanael West was living in the US long after a brief 3 month trip to Paris in the early 1920s. Calling him an "expatriate" is stretching things a bit & calling either of those novels "expatriate" is also stretching it given that both are set in the US. Interestingly, West died the day after Fitzgerald did.
When I praise Williams' 'poetic' translation I mean passages like the following:
"The virtuosity of words in this historic quarter is amazing. Those that escape from the houses have a quicksilver sheen, those that hide in their cracks are phosphorescent." - p 4
In other words, the descriptions use images not usually associated w/ what's described, things like: words w/ a "quicksilver sheen" or words "that hide in" [..] "cracks". I enjoy this so the bk got off to a good start for me. It also has a fairly linear plot but one that's revealed in an intriguing enuf way:
"Georgette, the sailor, the dog and I myself had no answer ready and this we sought wandering at random, driven here rather than there by an invincible fatigue.
"Thinking it over as we were walking with soft steps under the trees of the Champs-Elysées, I seemed to catch a purpose, that of all the night prowlers of Paris: we were in search of a corpse." - p 20
Given that there've probably been many novels written about the criminal underworld, as this one partially is, I wonder how many criminals so depicted ever read such things?
"I read that they were on the assassin's track, a sailor from Chacal who had killed and cut to pieces one of his friends." - p 22
W/ friends like that, who need enemies?
The poetic descriptive language continues to please me: "Paris swelled out with boredom, then slept as if to digest it." (p 36) I hate to break it to you, Paris, but you might be pregnant & time has been known to eat his children. "I took pains to notice the time at each clock we passed on the trip, and on passing the seventeenth, and despite the distance run, pointed to eleven thirty-five. Had time stopped?" (pp 37-38) No, but when Paris is digesting, time slows down drastically.
Now, Philippe, is this type of behavior becoming of you?:
"She was picked up, near the Pont-Neuf, by some sort of student in a béret who was taken by her to a hotel room. With decision, Jacques bribed the patron of the hotel and obtained the room next to that in which the student was undressing. We were misled by the banality of that interview. Georgette first demanded her pay, then, having complained about its smallness, declared that she was in a hurry because of a rendezvous with a Spaniard.
"Jacques and I made no secret of your joy. Georgette was no more than an ordinary prostitute; and by ourselves we had manufactured a mystery out of whole cloth."
"However when the characteristic noises and the succeeding silence indicated to us that all was over, we quitted the room and took up our watch at the door of the hotel. We wanted at least to make the acquaintance of the Spaniard." - p 45
Hence, the historic meeting between Soupault, Cousteau, Breton, & Buñuel did not take place in an aqualung sauna as usually reported. This explains Soupault's eventual marriage to a street: "The avenue de l'Opéra was no longer the stream that I had always followed, nor the highway that one usually pictures. It was a great shadow flashing like a glacier, which one must first conquer, and then embrace as one would a woman." (p 46) Awkward, eh? Maybe this explains the alligators in the sewers? But to each his own & que sera, sera. Ah.. but what about Georgette? Men are so fickle.
"I realized perfectly that in appearance she was just a common prostitute, the sister of all the prostitutes who overrun Paris and who, they say, are all more or less alike. But Georgette was seductive only because she was somehow different and because her appearance was obviously deceptive." - pp 48-49
"She loved only the dark which seemed each night to wed and her charm itself did not become real until she withdrew from the light to enter obscurity." - p 49
Maybe it was just to hide traces of disease.
Chapter Five begins w/ a quote from Roussel, Soupault can do no wrong:
"O, Treïul, remember that we are of the same race
and that I am entitled to your aid.
"—Raymond Roussel (La Poussière de Soleil)" - p 60
We are all the alligator children of Philippe Soupault & the avenue de lOpéra. As such, I make beginnings meet.
""You have come for some drawings, sir?" asked Georgette, and I couldn't tell whether she spoke in this way to deceive me or to deceive Octave. I was careful not to contradict and passed myself off as an art lover." - p 62
Well, I guess that makes sense: 1st he's embracing the avenue de lOpéra & now he's tossing off himself as an art lover. He's probably thinking of one of the sewer covers opened at a "^" intersection. Is it any wonder that Octave is a little odd? Thank goodness he's not a 9th, then he'd really be odd.
"He stopped talking suddenly and began to count the number of hairs in a paint brush.
"Then, in spite of my questions, he relapsed into silence like someone drowning.
"Wasted effort. Octave had departed, and for a realm to which I could not follow him. He seemed to push aside the horizon, drive back the walls of the room, wipe out the boundaries of day and dismiss the objects which surrounded us." - p 68
Then, all heck broke loose & metaphor was forsaken as simile piled on simile in a veritable cluster fuck tackle of the quarterback, halfback, fullback, & backhand. "One of them was torn and hung like a dead hand above the shining tracks of the railroad. Here and there the red point of an electric lamp, as sad as the dead body of a dog. The cars on the switches looked like pretentious tombs. / Octave took up his walk. It was like the refrain of a hackneyed ditty" (p 79)
"Chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella" - Comte de Lauréamont - NO WAY that was chance, Bub.
"Chance, said I to myself, is at least sincere in that it does not conceal its deceptions from us. On the contrary it exposes them in broad daylight, and trumpets them at night. It amuses itself, from time to time, by stupefying the world with the shock of a terrible surprise, as if to remind men of its great strength, thinking they might forget its flightiness, its mischief, its whimsicalities." - p 83
I discovered Restif de la Bretonne in recent yrs, in particular his "Anti-Justine". This is early 19th century French incest pornography of the most vivid sort. I just stumbled across the bk while browsing my favorite used bkstore & got it b/c of the reference to de Sade. I don't recall ever seeing any mention of de la Bretonne before when, Lo & Behold!:
"He described to us with many details the check room for small children, who were deposited under a number by nursery girls. This custom, he affirmed with a disarming certainty, is very ancient. And he cited cases of substitution of children infinitely more numerous than one would suppose. Now and then he underlined what he said with an observation borrowed from Restif de la Bretonne, who was plainly his model." - pp 106-107
The implication being here that the children were vulnerable to sexual use. As if that weren't enuf, we further get to learn of walking privies.
"["] Do you know," said he, smiling in his best manner, "that toward the end of the middle ages, bucket carriers circulated through the streets to give aid to people who were 'caught short'? They were armed with a great cloak forming a sort of temporary shelter from which emerged the face alone of the crouching client. After which the bucket was emptied into the nearest stream." - p 107
Chapter Nine begins w/ this quote:
"A something or other that has no name in any language.
Lately I've been preoccupied w/ the notion of concepts specific to particular languages. See, e.g., my review of Howard Rheingold's They Have a Word for It: A Lighthearted Lexicon of Untranslatable Words & Phrases: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . But an idea that I haven't come across yet is the one presented in the above Tertullian quote & an excellent idea it is. There are currently over 6,000 languages, what ideas don't have a word for them in any of them?! Discuss.
The novel's action meanders thru the activities of some criminals who're roughly clotted around a kingpin named Volpe:
"One day he sold pictures, the next day cotton and in all probability women. He possessed blocks of shares in a number of newspapers, whose policy he controlled and which served him at the same time as buffers against the world. What struck one about Volpe was his remarkable gift for using to the hilt everything that belonged to him. He had the taste for small enterprises whose yields were prompt and it could be said that he enriched himself through makeshifts. Like all those in his category, Volpe had a great number of vices. But he loved best of all to dominate." - p 126
The Publisher's Note declared Soupault a "poet, novelist, and journalist" & it's interesting to speculate how much of each was at play in the writing of this. The above description seems likely to me to be based on either a single individual known to the author or an amalgamation of character types - but is it? & what about the rest of it? I wonder if Soupault was ever interviewed in depth about just how fictional or non-fictional this is - but I don't wonder enuf to research it at the moment.
"One day, in a café—one of those cafés they love so much—I saw them listening with particular attention to a refrain spit out by a gramophone: it was the hackneyed of the hackneyed:
"Paris, c'est une blonde
Paris unique au monde.
"The imbecilic words spilled themselves before them and they listened with open mouths, ravished, convinced." - p 134
Ha ha! My French-Canadian friend Alan Lord wrote a bk called ATM SEX (you can read my review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... ) in wch he writes about Paris thusly:
"You love Paris because you've never actually lived there. You just passed through with a temporary load of money, gawked at the usual tourist trappings, then said au revoir Les Mis-arabes. You didn't have to try dialing for operator assistance in a phone booth (it doesn't exist, and anyway your pocket change is useless—you need a phone card, which you can only buy in a Bar Tabac). And you didn't get kicked out of a supermarket for squeezing in through a checkout aisle instead of going all the way to the end of the interminable checkout aisles and going in through the proper "IN" gate like the rest of the obedient French sheep, who in fact are much more conservative and knee-jerk respectful of rules, tradition, and hierarchy than their former Nazi masters." - p 98, ATM SEX
In my review of that I recount my own story:
"In 1984 I went into the Paris underground, the former Roman mining tunnels, w/ some friends & a Parisian reporter who knew his way around somewhat. I picked an area that I then proclaimed the "PS.B.B.T.O.U.C." (the "Paris Suburban Branch of the BalTimOre Underground Club"). I explained that everywhere I went became a suburb of BalTimOre. Now BalTimOre's a hopeless shithole of the 1st order & I was parodying imperialism but the reporter failed to see the humor in it & seemed more than a little offended that I wd dare to reduce the-great-Paris to a mere suburb of an American industrial city in decline. I thought that was funny."
I don't actually have any feelings about Paris one way or another. I remember being treated rudely there b/c my French was so horrible, I can't blame them for that - although when I meet someone who doesn't speak the local Lingua Franca I try to help them not castigate them. But let's not dwell, s-hell we? Let's refresh ourselves w/ some more poetic description:
"Empty-handed, I set out upon the discovery of the flight of time and space. Words, like joyous companions, started before my eyes and spun about my ears in a carnival of forgetfulness." - p 135
Do all Parisians speak like this? Alaseth, I thinketh noteth. They're more like our pal Blin below:
"Blin, seizing his courage in both hands, got up and said: "There are various degrees of doubt just as there are progressive stages of insanity. You make me laugh. Let one of you throw the first stone, I'll fling it back. My position today permits me to face these obligations of which I myself have fixed the value. I demand, I DEMAND. . . ." The words—empty, useless, out-of-date—flowed until he was breathless." - p 170
Ok, maybe not. Here're excerpts from Soupault's afterword on translator poet Williams's time in Paris:
"I think it was the memory of these nocturnal wanderings that made him decide to accept translating my "testimony," incorrectly subtitled "novel," Last Nights of Paris. Which for me was a great joy. I was one of the few Europeans (or Americans) who knew that Williams was a great, a very great poet and an admirable writer of incomparable lucidity and even of incurable modesty." - p 178
Perhaps my question-mark-less question above, "I wonder if Soupault was ever interviewed in depth about just how fictional or non-fictional this is", is answered here by Soupault saying ""testimony," incorrectly subtitled "novel["]". I think Williams did a great job - esp considering that the original is just one symbol: "^".
"But, as he has written, he had retained pleasant memories of our walks in Paris, which he evoked in translating, with his mother, Last Nights of Paris.
"And after reading his translation I congratulated him, because he had done an admirable job of describing the atmosphere of the Parisian nights." - p 179 ...more
Notes are private!
Oct 06, 2017
Oct 26, 2017
Jun 28, 1976
A. Merritt's Seven Footprints to Satan
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 3, 2017
I have a vague memory of reading Merritt's name in ass review of
A. Merritt's Seven Footprints to Satan
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - August 3, 2017
I have a vague memory of reading Merritt's name in association w/ H. P. Lovecraft's. That may be completely false. I've never found Lovecraft very interesting so, apparently, if I ran across that association it didn't do much to compel me to read Merritt. As such, this is the 1st bk I've read by him. I reckon that if I'd been alive & been a literate adult & read it in 1928 when it was 1st published I might've just found it ridiculous pop garbage. However, 89 yrs later, I found it quite enjoyable - maybe b/c I like all the pulp trappings that it excels in exploring.
The 1st p proclaims: "Over 5,000,000 Copies of A. Merritt's Books Sold In Avon Editions". That's impressive. I wonder if Merritt got any of the money or if the publishers managed to screw him. I think of all the big budget movies that've been made from Philip K. Dick bks & I think about his reputedly being so poor that he had to resort to eating dog food when he was alive. According to Wikipedia, Merritt was highly pd so I can't point an accusatory finger at publishers for this one.
"The clock was striking eight as I walked out of the doors of the Discoverers' Club and stood for a moment looking down lower Fifth Avenue. As I paused, I felt with full force that uncomfortable sensation of being watched that had both puzzled and harassed me for the past two weeks. A curiously prickly, cold feeling somewhere deep under the skin on the side the watchers are located; an odd sort of tingling pressure. It is a queer sort of a sensitivity that I have in common with most men who spend much of their lives in the jungle or desert. It is a throwback to some primitive sixth sense, since all savages have it until they get introduced to the white man's liquor." - p 5
That's the 1st paragraph. Whether or not the scene & sentiments are cliché it set a mood for me that I enjoyed & expectations that I looked forward to having fulfilled. I'm reminded of a bk I read when I was very young called The Spider's Den (1925), a detective story by Johnston McCulley. The atmosphere of that one must've made an impression on me. I have a vague memory of its featuring a diabolically clever criminal mastermind running a large network from a secret location full of secret passages. I'm further reminded of the series of movies, initially made by Fritz Lang, about Dr. Mabuse, the 1st of wch was called Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (Dr Mabuse der Spieler) (1922). I suppose these malevolent supergenius stories were all the rage in the 1920s.
The main character's name is James Kirkham. Of course, he has to be a man of unusual courage & character to pit himself against the crimelord.
"As I turned down Fifth Avenue from the Discoverers' Club a man passed me, a man whose gait and carriage, figure and clothing, were oddly familiar.
"I stood stock still, looking after him as he strolled leisurely up the steps and into the Club.
"The, queerly disturbed, I resumed my walk. There had been something peculiarly familiar, indeed disquietingly familiar, about that man. What was it? Making my way over to broadway, I went down that street, always aware of the watchers.
"But it was not until I was opposite City Hall that I realized what that truly weird familiarity had been. The realization came to me with a distinct shock.
"In gait and carriage, in figure and clothing, from light brown overcoat, gray soft hat, to strong Malacca cane that man had been—Myself!" - p 8
Obviously, the diabolical potential of that is strong. I wonder when the 1st identity theft story was? According to thebalance.com "In early American history, identity theft was more focused on voter registration and had more to do with ballot stuffing." That means pre-1930s. In Seven Footprints to Satan the charlatan is able to imitate Kirkham so perfectly that even people close to him are unable to tell the difference. I find that extremely unlikely. But, of course, this story is meant to be fantastic not realistic.
As Kirkham gets more & more hopelessly enmeshed in the plot he has a moment of vain hope that someone in the general public might help him: "The hopefulness faded steadily as I studied their faces. Sadly I realized that old Vanderbilt had been all wrong when he had said, "The public be damned." What he ought to have said was "The public be dumb." (p 22)
Kirkham eventually meets his puppet-master adversary Satan (as the title has more or less already told you):
"I began to glance about the dimly lighted room and realized that here, like the great hall, was another amazing treasure chamber. if half of what my eyes took in was genuine, the contents of that room alone were worth millions. But they could not be—not even an American billionaire could have gathered such things.
""But they are genuine," again he read my thoughts. "I am a connoisseur indeed—the greatest in the world. Not alone of paintings, and of gems and wines and other masterpieces of man's genius. I am a connoisseur of men and women. A collection of what, loosely, are called souls. That is why, James Kirkham, you are here!"" - p 30
"Satan for the first time turned his eyes away from me, looking over my head. I had come to the third stage of this mysterious game.
""Did you ever hear the legend of the seven shining footsteps of Buddha?" he asked me. I shook my head." - p 36
Now, rather than spoil this for the possible reader, I'll make up my own story about "the seven shining footsteps of Buddha": Buddha & Satan were playing chess w/ unborn children as the pieces. Satan's unborn children were capable of breathing fire while Buddha's were capable of being so ethereal that fire left them unscathed. Both of them had tricks up their sleeves that were unfathomable to the other not b/c of superior trickiness but b/c of massively incompatible mindsets. Satan had just fused half of his pieces into one massive super-powered meta-piece & divided the remaining pieces into a multitude of almost invisibly small pieces that were plagues.
If Buddha's pieces had been made of any sort of material susceptible to decay, such as ivory or wood, the plagues wd've been able to render them inoperable. Instead, Buddha's pieces were made of transcendent intelligence unmoved from their purpose even by the most convincing malicious gossip. 7 strategically placed 'footprints' of these pieces were capable of enlightening any of Satan's pawns so that they became free of Satan's manipulation whilst retaining his good taste in art. His meta-piece immediately stepped on several of these footprints at once & became released from Satan's will. The 1st thing it decided to do was lay down on the chessboard & take a nap - effectively ending the game & experiencing some very pleasant dreams in the process. In its dream, the meta-piece has Kirkham encounter a soldier whose life he'd saved. Both are imprisoned by Satan.
""I was an electrician before the war," came the whisper in the dark. "None better. Master at it. 'E knows I am. It's why 'e lets me live, as I told you. Satan—augh-h-h!
""Things were different after the war. Jobs 'ard to get an' livin' 'igh. Got lookin' at things different, too. Seen lots of muckers who hadn't done a thing in the war but live cushy and pile up loot. What right 'ad they to 'ave all they 'ad when them as 'ad fought an' their families was cold an' 'ungry?
"" 'Andy with my 'ands I always was. An' light on my feet. Climb! Climb like a cat. Climb like a bloody centipede. An' quiet! A spook in galoshes was a parade compared to me. I ain't praisin' myself, sir. I'm just tellin' you.["]" - p 57
I'm sure you can see where that's going. The above speaker, Barker, becomes a cat burglar & from there to one of Satan's pawns. & what diabolical crimelord doesn't have drug addict slaves?
""Looked like dopes," he says, "and then again they didn't. Their faces weren't a sick white, more of a transparent. They didn't behave like dopes, either. They seemed to be talking sensible enough. Dressed top-notch, too."" - p 99
"Dope" apparently originated as a word referring to a thick viscous liquid in the early 19th century. When I was a kid the dangerously fume-producing glue used to put models together was called "dope" or "model airplane dope". In the late 19th century drug users became known as "dope fiends", apparently because the opium smoked was thick & viscous. The US Army's cartoonish idiot character was called "Joe Dope". Perhaps the above-referred characters were Joseph & Josephine Dope.
"" 'E lets me use the kehft slyves," he answered astonishingly.
""That's twice to-night I've heard their name," I said. "What are they?"
""Them?" there was loathing and horror in his voice. "They fair give you the creeps. 'E feeds 'em the kehft. Opium, coke, 'asheesh—they're mother's milk compared to it. Gives each one of 'em 'is or 'er particular Paradise—till they wake up. Murder's the least of what they'll do to get another shot. Them fellows in the white nightgowns that stood on the steps with their ropes, was some of 'em. You've heard of the Old Man of the Mountains who used to send out the assassins. Feller told me about 'em in the war.["]" - p 61
Ah, yes, Hassan i Sabbah. I've never understood what the attraction of the Old Man of the Mountains was for people like William S. Burroughs & Peter Lamborn Wilson. He just seems like yet-another religious manipulator of the worst sort to me. It's interesting to see him pop up, albeit as an aside, in Seven Footprints to Satan. Anyway, this is pulp & it's the type of pulp that has the ingredients for my favorite pulp recipe.
"A castle with no stairs or "honest doors." . . . A labyrinth of secret passages and sliding panels. And the little thief creeping, creeping through the walls, denied the open, patiently marking down one by one their secrets." - p 63
Anyway, yeah, I had fun reading this. In the end, Satan changes his name to Joe Dope & sells real estate under the business name of Winchester & plays chess in the public parks. JUST KIDDING. ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 27, 2017
Aug 03, 2017
Feb 26, 2013
really liked it
Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's The Day is Dark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 21-22, 2017
This is the 1st Nordic crime fiction I've read. The a review of
Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's The Day is Dark
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 21-22, 2017
This is the 1st Nordic crime fiction I've read. The author's Icelandic, the action takes place mostly in Greenland. Perhaps Lars von Trier's The Element of Crime (1984) might qualify as my 1st exposure to the genre but there's probably something earlier than that that I'm not thinking of. Wd Ingmar Bergman's The Virgin Spring (1960) qualify? I associate the popularity of the genre, if it is popular, w/ Stieg Larsson's trilogy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, all of wch were made into movies after the author's death in 2004 (according to Wikipedia). I've probably seen the movie made from The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Still, this is the 1st of the bks I've read. A back cover review says ""Worthy of Stieg Larsson." —Kirkus Reviews"
The author is described on the back cover as being "a director of one of Iceland's largest engineering firms. Her work is found on bestseller lists all over the world." For the sheep readers, the people who're afraid to read anything that hasn't been preapproved for them by some sort of semi-delusional mass consumption, this last sentence is perfect. For a person like myself, it's a complete turn-off b/c my experience of what constitutes 'best-selling' is that robopaths flock to it - & robopaths are only literate enuf to read their marching orders, to consume their cult propaganda. I bought a used copy of this so I didn't contribute to the dubious statistics.
One of the things that impressed me about this the most, if "impressed" is the right word, is that the protagonist, a lawyer accustomed to doing divorce cases, mainly gets done what she gets done by being a reasonable level-headed person that people will trust & talk to. I suspect that these are professional qualities that "a director of one of Iceland's largest engineering firms" might respect. I respect them too. I also don't think they're necessarily likely to characterize most lawyers. Lawyers are, after all, in the business of 'winning' thru argumentation - wch generally involves all sorts of underhanded manipulation. Wd you trust a lawyer? I have friends who're lawyers, obviously we like each other b/c of interests in common & mutual respect. Still, the qualities of the lawyer hero, Thóra, as presented in this bk are a bit too idealized for them to be believable to me. She's a bit too trustworthy. Take away a lawyer's cushy economically spoiled lifestyle & you might have a cornered rat. SO, the mystery:
"She swallowed her disappointment. "Are the workers in Greenland?"
""No, they're in Iceland. All but two people who are probably still on-site. The others cam home during their allotted leave, but now refuse to return."
""What do you mean when you say that the two who remained behind are probably still on-site?"
""Nothing's been heard from them for around ten days, and they can't get hold of anyone there to go and find out what's happening. It's possible that the camp's communication system has simply failed, but apparently the only way to find out is to go there. If a logical explanation is found for their silence, it's conceivable that the other employees can be persuaded to return. That of course would be the best solution for the bank."" - pp 14-15
Thora's hired by a bank to try to solve a potentially financially damaging snag in a nascent mining operation in a sparsely populated area of Greenland. Taking the job appeals to her b/c there's some mystery involved & she's sick of divorce cases. The story is generally not a very happy one but there is a little humor early on:
"She leaned in and whispered, "Did you notice that Bella is the only other person awake?" Stealthily, she turned to check if this was still the case. "If she weren't here I could invite you to the toilet and initiate you into the mile high club." She looked Matthew in the eye and grinned. "Damn it, what a shame she had to come." She turned back to the window, pleased with herself." - p 38
As I'm sure you all realize, the mile high club is for people who dump their poop out to freeze in the high altitude while their partner parachutes attached to a line & catches it in a net. They then get reeled back in & beat the pooper w/ the frozen club.
Ok, ok, I'm joshin' ya, the mile high club is just a name for people who have sex on airplanes. But you probably already knew that.
One of the main characters is a hunter who still lives according to the traditional lifestyle. He observes the Icelandic company employees discretely from a distance: "It was not his job to rescue full-grown children who came here on a fool's errand. He would concentrate on saving the dog; it was far more important to him." (p 60) The hunter has important wisdom but it's framed in a belief system that's not acceptable to the more modern people around him.
An Icelandic author writes a bk about Greenland. I wonder how many people conflate Iceland & Greenland? I don't but I do associate the 2 even though I know that Greenland's colder & definitely not greener, etc..
"Thóra skimmed over the text. It didn't surprise her that it was thought that those who fist settled in Eastern Greenland around two thousand years ago had all died out. One migration and settlement followed another, but it always ended the same way: No one managed to survive for long in this harsh region. It wasn't until the eighteenth century that settlements started to thrive on the east coast, but in the nineteenth century the population started to decrease. One village after another fell to ruin after the villagers died from hunger or other hardships" - p 64
Sigurdardóttir does an excellent job of establishing a plethora of possible explanations for the still unknown fate of the missing persons & for the fate of the previous dead of the area: "Inuits believed that something called a Tupilak had killed them all." (p 67) When I think of something like a Tupilak, an apparently threatening curse or monster-like figure, I think of plans of ways to warn future people away from toxic waste areas w/ danger-lives that far exceed the likelihood of surrounding civilization lifespans. In other words, warnings that rely on imagery rather than language since the language may be long dead while the threatening imagery may still live on.
""I have a feeling this is probably some kind of Tupilak," said Friòrikka, pointing at the figurine. At first Thóra had found the figurine resembled a banana upon which something had been scratched, but when she looked more closely she saw that it was an intricately carved bone to which had been tied some strange-looking odds and ends: hair, some kind of leather, and a bird's claw. The craftsman appeared to have tried to make the bone itself resemble an ogre, and indeed the figurine looked quite monstrous. It had a large face with open jaws and numerous sharp teeth. Little hands with claws were carved into its belly but otherwise the monster was covered with a pattern that they couldn't understand, but that possibly symbolized something. On the figurine's back a tail could be distinguished." - p 115
"The woman frowned. "We're not bad to outsiders. We don't like the place you choose to live in. No one should be there; you are disturbing the evil that dwells there and by doing so you're putting us all in danger. We just want you to go somewhere else."" - p 134
As it turns out, the Greenlanders are correct in their warning but can't explain it in a way that seems anything but superstitious to the Icelanders so the warning is written off as being merely fanciful instead of representing a real danger. All sorts of things turn out to be correct.. but for the wrong reasons:
""Didn't those bastard Greenlanders just sabotage the equipment?" asked Eyjólfur immediately. "They'd certainly be capable of it."
""What the hell are you talking about, boy?" snapped the doctor. "Why would they want to sabotage anything here? I'm certain I know more about the natives of this country than you do, and I can tell you for sure that they're the kindest of people and wish no one ill."
""Except for their women," interrupted Friòrikka. "They're not particularly kind to them." Again she seemed to regret having spoken, and pressed her lips shut.
"The doctor harrumphed, then said, "The way that a particular people or race handles alcohol says nothing about its disposition. Alcohol doesn't really bring out the best in Icelanders either. What if we were deprived of our sustenance, like these people have been because of bleeding-heart liberal Westerners banning the hunting they depend upon?"" - p 90
What if everyone's a little bit right & a little bit wrong? Then there's the whole process of sifting thru it all & not throwing out the baby w/ the bathwater. There's definitely some clear-headed wisdom in this bk, & I admire it for that, but it strikes me as the type of wisdom that a person can have, an author can have, when they have a comfortable distance from actual problems that they may never have to directly experience the miseries of - b/c, if they did, they'd be just as destroyed by it, if not more so, than the people immersed in it from birth usually are.
The hunter, Igimaq, tries to fulfill what he considers his duty by warning people away from the cursed area. Alas, the distance between the culture he represents & the culture he's trying to warn is too great, the problem is more than a language gap - wch, in itself, is usually more than enuf to cause problems. He decides to appeal to his old friend who has some power in the community as a tribal elder & who at least partially understands the problem: "No one would listen to him that way. Besides, it was only this former friend of his who knew the story and so would hopefully understand the gravity of the situation immediately. Unless he had lost his connection with his roots." (p 107)
""Don't you remember what we were taught, Sikki?" The hunter stared at his friend. "We are responsible for this area." He recalled as if it were yesterday how the two of them had been entrusted with this task; Igimaq because he was a direct descendant of the greatest hunters in the village on his father's side, and Sikki because he was in line to become the next angekokk, or shaman, as his father and grandfather had been before him." - p 155
Another mysterious artifact is found: "After most of the ice had been removed from it, it turned out to be a bone that had been polished, with holes drilled in two places in the middle. A leather strap had been tied to it at both ends, meaning that above all, it resembled a giant's armband." (p 108) One might be tempted to jump to a conclusion that it's another relic similar to the Tupilak. After all, it's a bone w/ pieces of leather tied to it. But one of the strongest lessons of this bk is don't jump to conclusions or you'll never figure out the truth.
As w/ most mysteries, suspicion is cast on various characters:
"No doubt the therapist would quickly lose his appetite if Arnar started to describe the events leading to his fall. Terrible, mindless vengeance and violence—and not from someone who kills for survival but from him, a supposedly civilized human being. And toward his colleagues, too . . . He felt sick when he recalled the reasons behind his actions. But though the others' behavior toward him had been disgraceful, he alone was responsible for what had happened. And for that, he couldn't blame alcohol." - p 112
"Naruana could only hope that Igimaq didn't know what his son had done, how low he had stooped. Hope that he hadn't seen him as he stood there, his hands stained with the blood of a prey no hunter would boast about." - p 128
"Arnar turned his back to the wall. "What do you think about killing animals?" he asked.
""Me?" asked the young woman, as if he could have meant someone else. "I don't find it pleasant to think about, but it's okay if the animals are meant to be eaten."
""And people?" asked Arnar, without changing his expression or his tone of voice. "Is that all right?"" - p 151
"Friòrikka sounded skeptical. "You know, I read somewhere that in the old days the Greenlanders never had any actual religion. In place of faith they lived with fear." Friòrikka's breathing was regular, as if she were drifting off and speaking almost in her sleep. "That's how I feel. I'm not religious but I feel a persistent fear of something, though I don't know what."" - p 183
If the following is accurate then Greenland is more interesting to me than ever:
"It was an ancient custom; those who lived together in small groups could not afford discord, meaning that those who raised their voices or bickered with each other were looked down on. The only way to express one's disapproval was to remain silent, because words spoken in anger had a way of snowballing, intensifying and provoking hostility that would eventually put the survival of the entire community at risk. The Greenlandic language was thus free of invective and Igimaq was not about to start swearing in Danish." - p 264
That's certainly a lesson that more people shd learn.
There're times when I suspect authors of saying just enuf to stimulate the reader to figure out at least one aspect of a mystery shortly before the answer is presented in full.
"Eyjólfur frowned. "I don't know. He wasn't so awful that people would have thought about killing him." He looked awkwardly at Friòrikka in the hope of support. "Right? It wasn't like that, was it?"
"Friòrikka looked from him to her lap. "No. Definitely not." She abruptly fell silent. It was as if all the air had gone out of her." - p 355
It was after the reading the above (& what led up to it) that I realized who killed _____ & why. I felt satisfied w/ myself when my theory was verified shortly thereafter. I'll bet there's even a term for when authors nudge the reader into solving a problem.
All in all, I admit to begrudgingly finding this bk wise & well thought thru. One of the things that makes my praise for it "begrudging" is that the writing style fairly screams of SOON-TO-BE-A-MAJOR-MOTION-PICTURE - but maybe it's not brutal or shocking enuf for that. ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 18, 2017
Jul 22, 2017
Feb 01, 1999
really liked it
James Ellroy's Clandestine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - JUNE 6, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... review of
James Ellroy's Clandestine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - JUNE 6, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
It's been a while since I read an Ellroy bk. I'd forgotten what a good writer he is. Take this 2nd paragraph of the Prologue as an example:
"Nostalgia victimizes the unknowing by instilling in them a desire for simplicity and innocence they can never achieve. The fifties weren't a more innocent time. The dark salients that govern life today were there then, only they were harder to find. That was why I was a cop, and why I chased women. Golf was no more than an island of purity, something I did exceedingly well. I could drive a golf ball three hundred yards. Golf was breathtaking cleanliness and simplicity." - p 1
Some people chase ambulances, some people chase women, women move slower.
"I breathed it all in, and gave what I hoped would pass for an ironic grin: "So you don't like cops," I said. "Big deal. Most people don't. Would you rather have anarchy? There's only one answer, Miss Weinberg. This is not the best of all possible worlds. We have to accept that, and get on with the administration of justice."" - p 30
Of course, these days there're plenty of people who, yes, wd rather have anarchy - & those who wdn't, for the most part, are only reacting to the term like a Pavlovian dog preconditioned to experience fear w/o having more than a very vague idea of what it is they're afraid of.
"Lorna did not relent. "I can't accept that, and I won't. You can't change human nature, but you can change the law. And you can weed out some of the sociopaths who carry badges and guns.
""For example, my father told me you were curious about that man who caddied for you today. I know about him. He's one of your victims. An attorney who's a member of this club once represented Dirt Road Dave in his suit against the Lose Angeles Police Department. During the Depression he had stolen some food from a grocery. Two policemen saw him do it and chased him, and when they finally caught him they were angry. They beat him unconscious with their billy clubs. Dave suffered internal hemorrhaging and almost died. He sustained irreparable brain damage. The A.C.L.U. sued your police department, and lost. Cops are above the law and can do what they please." - p 30
Now, I'm an anarchist &, unlike most anarchists I know, I don't hate cops. I think most of them are working class people who are in over their heads. Still, let's be realistic: the above story fits in w/ my idea of realism. I'll give a few relevant stories that explain why:
I had a friend whose brother was in the LA Police. One day my friend was at his parents' house when his brother came by w/ another policemen. They were joking about going out to "shoot cans. Afri-cans, Mexi-cans" Nyuk, nyuk. Black Panthers talked about the police as being like an occupying army in their neighborhoods. I think that's spot-on.
I had another friend who was a junkie poet. He was a nice guy, he probably resorted to some theft to support his habit. The police took a dislike to him. 2 cops cornered him in an alley & one of them systematically beat him w/ his billy club in the same spot on his stomach over & over again to cause internal organ damage &, thereby, shorten his life. He sued the police w/ the usual outcome of NADA police responsibility. I haven't seen the friend for decades. He's probably dead. He was a sensitive person who just cdn't make it in this society in the approved-of ways. If being a poet in this society got more respect he probably wdn't've had to resort to theft - but being a poet or most other types of creative person is undervalued to an extreme in this society.
Yet another friend of mine, of Mexican descent, was at a protest in California at a motel where illegal immigrants were being held for deportation. My friend was arrested & taken to jail where he was hog-tied (ie: w/ his hands tied behind his back to his feet) & beaten repeatedly on the soles of his feet so that he cdn't walk properly. That was torture. His mom reported this to Amnesty International who informed her that there is no torture in the US. They've since changed their tune.
I've sat in a courtrm before & witnessed a man sentenced to jail for stealing a piece of meat from a supermarket. The man was very skinny. My point is that if you're poor in this country there's a different set of laws & treatments for you than if you're rich. The police know that rich people have too many retaliatory resources AND that their actual purpose is to.. protect & serve THE RICH. They're a bodyguard pd for w/ public money, heaven forbid that the rich shd have to pay for anything.
For maybe the 1st 15 yrs that I had sex, from 1970 to 1985 - & more sporadically up 'til 1996 - the use of diaphragms was a common form of impregnation-prevention. This was preferable to birth-control pills b/c it didn't disrupt the biological cycle of the woman. Once fear-of-AIDS changed the whole dynamic of sex, the use of condoms started to dominate & diaphragms seemed to fall into disuse. I never really had a handle on when diaphragms were invented so it was interesting to find them in the 1951 of this novel:
"I pushed open the door. Maggie was starting to insert her diaphragm when she saw me. She jumped, startled and angry, into the bathtub, where she covered herself with the shower curtain.
""Bill;" she said, flushed. "Please, goddamnit, I'll just be a minute. Wait in the bedroom, honey. Please. I'll be right there."
""I just wanted to watch you, sweetheart," I said. "I wanted to help you with it."
"Maggie said nervously, "It's a private thing, Bill. A woman's thing. If you don't see me do it, then you don't really know it's there. It's better for you. Believe me, honey."" - p 38
Ah, humans & our complications. This was a one-nite stand. Can you imagine a cat-in-heat going thru this? [Cat steps into litter box & turns her back] "Meooooowweerr."
"Jack groaned and the old woman giggled as Wacky did his Frankenstein imitation, walking toward her slowly, arms extended, groaning deeply." - p 46
"232. Player-Belt Girdle Monster
- Neoista?! Puccs - Black Black Galéria & environs, (Buda)Pest, Hungary
- Monday, July 7th, 1997, 6PM
- Black Black Galéria is the gallery of Opál Színház (Opal Theater). It's in a complex of basements which was entered by stooping through a sidewalk-level window & walking down a sloping board laying on a sand pile. Large piles of sand were faintly visible off to the left when entering. At the bottom of the piles were 2 rooms. Off to the right off of the 1st room was the closed off entrance to living quarters. Off to the left of the 2nd room, 1 could walk through another awkward entrance down into another room where Amen! had an exhibit. At the end of this room was a cage that blocked entrance to a room beyond. This cage is reputed to've been lived in for 1 month by 1 of the main people of Opál Színház. I stayed mainly in the dim light on the sand piles off to the left when 1 entered - playing tapes with my Player Belt (see entries 212 & 217, etc..). Eventually, etta cetera, Brian Damage, Ghera & I ventured forth into the gypsy neighborhood - with the Player Belt playing my tapes all the while. Back in front of Black Black, the neighborhood people had gathered out of curiousity. My tape started playing loud steady explosive sounds & I began to walk stiffly with my feet hitting the pavement in sync with the sounds holding my arms out like the stereotypical zombie/monster. etta probably took something from me (like my flaming steam iron necklace) & I started pursuing her through the thick of the crowd. Children started laughing & pretending to be terrified & running frantically to get out of my way."
How did that get in there? I'm listening to Lambert, Hendricks & Ross's "Sing a Song of Basie" (recorded 1957 - a little late to be of the same period as the novel) as I wrote this. Thought you might like to know. 'Bill' insults his superior officer & pays the price, a transfer to an unglamorous & dangerous district:
"Wacky Walker never made it to Seventy-seventh Street Division, Watts, L.A.'s heart of darkness, but I did.
"Beckworth bided his time and in June, when Captain Larson retired, to muted fanfare, after thirty-three years on the job, I got my orders: Officer Frederick U. Underhill, 1647, to Seventy-seventh Street Division to fill manpower shortage.
"Which was a joke: the ranks at Seventy-seventh Street were swelled to bursting. The ancient red brick building that served the hottest per capita crime area in the city was painfully overstaffed with cops, and undersupplied with every crime-fighting provision from toilet paper to fingerprinting ink. There was a shortage of chairs, tables, floor space, lockers, soap, brooms, mops, and even writing implements. There was no shortage, however, of prisoners. There was an unsurpassed daily and nightly parade of burglars, purse snatchers, dope addicts, drunks, wife beaters, brawlers, pimps, hookers, perverts, and cranks." - p 65
I'm sure that Ellroy is well-read & researched on the eras he represents but this still seems daunting to me as a writerly task to try to accurately represent a place & time he doesn't have personal familiarity w/. It's 1951, & Ellroy has Underhill blackmailing a bartender for information b/c he's caught him w/ pot:
""Shut up. Listen to me. I'm interested in pickup artists—pussy-hounds, guys who score regular here. You help me out and I'll let you slide. You don't and I'll bust you. I'll call for a patrol car and tell the bulls you tried to sell me these three reefers. That's two to ten at Quentin. What's it gonna be?"" - p 83
Two to 10 at San Quentin prison for selling 3 joints. Those were the days. The days of ridiculous penalties for victimless crimes. The days when being gay meant hiding it to save yr life. Henry Cowell, major American composer & music theorist & publisher, etc, was imprisoned in San Quentin in 1936 w/ a 15 yr sentence for a "morals" charge. He wd've gotten out at the time this novel began if he'd served the full sentence, wch he didn't, he got out after 4 yrs.
I'd originally read that Cowell was busted in a sting operation for cruising in a park. Perhaps that story was circulated to generate more sympathy for him & for others like him. Wikipedia claims that having oral sex w/ a 17 yr old boy. I don't know wch story is true. Having been a 17 yr old boy in 1971 who hitch-hiked & got such offers fairly often I can truthfully say that saying no was all it took to prevent it from happening so I assume that the 17 yr old consented. At any rate, those were the days. The days when a major composer cd get sentenced to 15 yrs in prison b/c of his sexual activities. We're not talking Oscar Wilde in 1895, sentenced to 2 yrs hard labor for indecency, we're talking the 20th century.
""Don't thank me yet, Officer. You are a very gifted young man, but your arrogance supersedes your gifts. Arrogance cannot be tolerated in police officers; to tolerate it would be to promote anarchy. The Los Angeles Police Department is a superbly structured bureaucracy, one you have sworn allegiance to. Your actions have reviled the department. Know that, Underhill. Know that your ambition is threatening to kill you as a policeman. Do you understand me?"" - p 96
There they go, picking on anarchy again. What's so bad about thinking for yrself & sabotaging unjust institutions? Sheesh.
My 1st encounter of a close kind w/ Ellroy's work was upon witnessing the movie "L.A. Confidential". I loved it & thought it represented as great Film Noir made long after the 'classic' era for Noir. The Ellroy bk that the movie was based on was copyrighted in 1990, 8 yrs after Clandestine. Clandestine seems to hold the seeds of at least 3 later bks: L.A. Confidential, the Black Dahlia (1987), & My Dark Places (1996). The only bk that I've read by Ellroy earlier than Clandestine is Brown's Requiem (1981). Clandestine presages L.A. Confidential b/c it's got the brutal Lieutenant Dudley Smith in it taking a suspect to an abandoned motel & 'interrogating' him by beating the shit out of him until he gets a confession.
"Dudley Smith was a lieutenant in the homicide bureau, a fearsome personage and legendary cop who had killed five men in the line of duty. Irish-born and Los Angeles-raised, he still clung tenaciously to his high-pitched, musical brogue, which was as finely tuned as a Stradivarius. He often lectured at the academy on interrogation techniques, and I remembered how that brogue could be alternately soothing or brutal, inquisitive or dumbfounded, sympathetic or filled with pious rage." - p 97
Smith explains to Underhill something he did to try to discover who the Black Dahlia's killer was:
""Dick Carlisle and I snuck the stiff over to the warehouse late one night. I dyed her hair jet black, like the Dahlia's. I stripped her nude, and tied her ankles with a rope, and Dick and I hoisted her up feet first and hung her from a low ceiling beam. Then Dick went and got our eight degenerates from the Hall of Justice jail. We let them view her, one at a time, lad, with appropriate props. One scum was a knife man; he had scores of arrests for knife fighting. I handed him a butcher knife and made him slice the corpse. he could hardly do it. He didn't have it in him. Another filth was a child molester, recently paroled from Atascadero. His M.O. was asking little girls if he could kiss their private parts. I made him kiss the dead girl's private parts, smell that dead sex flesh up close. He couldn't do it. And on and on. I was looking for a reaction so vile, so unspeakable that I would know that this was the scum that killed Beth Short."" - p 125
It didn't work. I doubt that the above story is rooted in historical fact, it seems more likely to be rooted in Ellroy's lurid imagination. Maybe I'm wrong. Here's another story that seems more likely to be realistic:
"["]At five minutes of six we will kick in Eddie's door. We will subdue him, and put the fear of God into any colleen or homo who might be sharing his bed, then send them on their way. I have an interrogation place set up, an abandoned motel in Gardena. Freddy, Dick, Engels, and I will travel in my car. Mike will follow in his. This is apt to be a long interrogation, lads["]" - p 134
Think of the murders of Black Panthers Fred Hampton & Mark Clark (while they slept a drug-induced sleep as a result of downers put in their food by an undercover agent) by the police in Chicago in 1969 & you'll get a good idea of the way the police sometimes work.
In the meantime, Underhill is dating cop-critical legal eagle Lorna whose artistic taste we get a glimpse of:
"There was a Hieronymus Bosch painting that represented insanity—hysterical grotesque creatures in an undersea environment importuning God—or someone—for release from their madness. There was a Van Gogh job that featured flowery fields juxtaposed against brown grass and a somber sky. There was Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"—three lonely people sitting in an all-night diner, not talking. It was awesome and filled with with lonely wonder." - p135
I share her tastes. At the same time that she's dating Underhill, however, he's being schooled by Smith. Dudley's techniques are do NOT appeal to Lorna's tastes:
""Eddie," I said, "do your parents know you're homosexual?"
""Do they know that Lillian is a lesbian?"
""You don't want them to find out, do you?"
""No!" He screeched the word, his voice breaking. He wrapped his arms around himself and rocked back and forth." - p 165
Yep, those were the days. At least people can be a little more openly gay these days so such blackmail is less likely to be effective. Of course, let's not get too happy here, right? There're still cases like Pittsburgh policemen David Sisak, Michael Saldutte, & Richard Ewing beating the shit out of black teenagerfor no good reason Jordan Miles in the all-too-recent 2010. The cops got financially penalized but did no time. The attorney who represented Ewing was quoted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as saying: "they'd do it all over again. They did nothing wrong. They have nothing to be ashamed of." Any civilian who beat a cop like they beat this kid wd probably be given life w/o parole or executed. There's no way they'd get off like these cops did. These are the days. Still, Lorna & Fred get married, demonstrating once again that opposites attract.
"So the dead hovered over my wife and me, solidifying their presence as Lorna and I lived on. For years we loved, and it was worth the price in sorrow that my blind ambition had exacted from me and so many others. For a long while I wanted nothing that I didn't have, and I was moved beyond movement by Lorna's willingness to give it to me." - p 201
I love a little romance, esp in my own life. Thank you, you know who.
The dead are definitely hovering over this novel. Given that I'd read Ellroy's My Dark Places about the murder of his mom when he was a kid, it was easy to see parallels to his actual life story & the fiction in Clandestine:
"NURSE FOUND MURDERED IN EL MONTE
Strangulation Death for Attractive Divorced Mother"
"one of the Scouts, Danny Johnson, age 12, thought he saw an arm poking out of a line of scrub that runs along the fence on the school's south side." - p 209
Ellroy's own mom was a divorcee living in El Monte. "Some kids found her." (p 3, My Dark Places).
""Marcella was such a good woman. A good mother, devoted to her son." Mrs. Hariis, 43, was divorced from her husband, William "Doc" Harris, several years ago. They have a nine-year-old son, who was spending the weekend with his father. When notified of the death, Harris (who has been eliminated as a suspect) said, "I have every hope the police will quickly catch my wife's killer." Nine-year-old Michael, distraught, is now living with his father in Los Angeles." - p 210, Clandestine
"Hallinen and Lawton quizzed Ellroy on his ex-wife's social life. He told them Jean was a secretive woman who kept things to herself. She lied when it suited her—and she was really 43, not the 37 she claimed. She was promiscuous and an alcoholic. Her son found her in bed with strange men on several occasions. Her recent move to El Monte could only be explained as a run from or run to some lowlife she was seeing." - p 13, My Dark Places
"The victim's son was pudgy, and tall for 10 years old. He was nervous—but did not appear in any way distraught." - p 12, My Dark Places
Ellroy was put into his father's care. The parallels go on & on. Ellroy's mom's murder was never solved.
""Well," he said, "she said the kid was gettin' into fights, and talkin' dirty . . . and . . . exposing himself to all the other little kids."" - p 215, Clandestine
"I was becoming quite a large kid. I was foulmouthed and spouted profane lingo on the schoolyard. My father's favorite expression was "Fuck you, Fritz." His favorite expletive was "cocksucker." I mimicked his language and reveled in it shock value.
"I was refining my Crazy Man Act. It kept me miserably lonely and sealed up in my own little head." - p 99, My Dark Places ...more
Notes are private!
May 29, 2017
Jun 08, 2017
Oct 10, 2001
Sep 25, 2001
**spoiler alert** review of
Jay Russell's Brown Harvest
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 27, 2017
This is the truncated review, read the full **spoiler alert** review of
Jay Russell's Brown Harvest
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 27, 2017
This is the truncated review, read the full one here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Having already reviewed Bruce Hale's The Malted Falcon (2003) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34... ) & Anne Capeci's The Maltese Dog (1998) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50... ) wch are both knock-offs of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon (1929) & Roy V. Young's Captains Outrageous Or, For Doom the Bell Tolls (1994) ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41... ) w/ its at least titular references to both Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous & Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls I reckon I'm working toward becoming a minor 'expert' on this genre of derivative intertextual bks.
Of the related bks in this genre (of sorts) in my personal collection I still have Ben H. Winters's Android Karenina (2010) & Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) (there's even a 2016 movie from this one!) & Regina Jeffers's Captain Wentworth's Persuasion to go.. AND the "Nancy Clue and the Hardly Boys in A Ghost in the Closet (1995) by Mabel Maney.. but I'm not in any hurry to read any of them. It's hard to believe that such bks have been around for at least 23 yrs now.
Actually, I suppose one cd date them even further back to things like Kathy Acker's work whose publishing dates back to 1972. I've only read her Blood and Guts in High School (copyrighted 1978 but not published until 1984) wch I hated but skimming thru it again now it looks more interesting than I remembered so I might give her another read. I see that there's a post-mortem publication by her entitled "Rip-Off Red, Girl Detective" (pub. 2002 from manuscript of 1973) that fits in even more neatly here. Then there's Stewart Home's series of novels that started w/ his Pure Mania (1989) knock-off of Richard Allen's skinhead novels.
SO, Brown Harvest, knock-off of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest (1929): Red Harvest is an important bk to me, Brown Harvest isn't.. but, still, I wanted to read it b/c I love Red Harvest so much. To quote the entirety of my capsule review of that:
"This subject is probably discussed at great scholarly length elsewhere (perhaps in Joshua Waletsky's 1999 documentary "Dashiell Hammett: Detective, Writer") but, at the moment, I'm not sure where, so I'll add my 2¢'s worth: "Red Harvest" is about a detective hired to 'clean up' a town who pits various gangsters against each other in the process & destabilizes the criminal community into a bloodbath, a Red Harvest. The detective becomes increasingly psychotic as he begins to enjoy the mayhem he catalyzes. NOW, Hammett was a Pinkerton. The Pinkertons were strike breakers & union busters - mercenaries for robber barons, capitalism's thugs. Hammett was a Pinkerton in the town where the Anaconda Copper Mining Company was busy exploiting workers, ruining the environment, & making huge wads'o'dough. An IWW (International Workers of the World) union rep came there to agitate for better conditions. He was murdered. What was Hammett's connection, if any, to all this? & did it inspire the writing of "Red Harvest"? Hammett later went to jail for refusing to snitch to HUAC (House Unamerican Affairs Committee). Hopefully, I haven't garbled this story too much. I'm writing these reviews mostly off the top of my head."
That Goodreads review was written December 26, 2007 when I was 1st starting to write reviews on Goodreads so it's very minimal & written long after I'd read the bk. To expand on it a bit here:
"On April 19, 1920, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Metal Mine Workers Industrial Union called for a strike in the mines around Butte. They hoped the strike would help secure higher wages, an eight-hour day, and end the use of the rustling card, a system that allowed employers to blacklist employees involved in union organizing, among other goals. The strike came at a weak point for the union movement in Butte. World War I had undermined the power of the Butte Miners Union and the mines around the town were open shops. Only six years earlier, in 1914, the Butte Miners Union Hall had been destroyed. Rising copper prices, fatal mining accidents, and recruitment by the IWW had further exacerbated tensions in the town. Three years before the strike, an IWW organizer named Frank Little was beaten and hanged from a railroad trestle by unknown assailants. Thus, the strike began in an atmosphere of tension." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacond...
SO the IWW's Frank Little was murdered in 1917. Hammett "left school when he was 13 years old and held several jobs before working for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He served as an operative for Pinkerton from 1915 to February 1922, with time off to serve in World War I. The agency's role in union strike-breaking eventually left him disillusioned." ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashiel... )
"The story goes that in 1917, Dashiell Hammett was offered $5,000 by an officer of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company to kill labor union organizer Frank Little, who had come to Butte, Mont., to stir up striking miners. Hammett, who was working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency as a strikebreaker, declined the offer. Little was killed, and it was believed that other Pinkertons may have been behind his lynching. Despite it all, Hammett stuck with the Pinkerton job.
"The story has become pivotal for many people attempting to understand Hammett and his work, which includes the novels “Red Harvest,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man,” and many short stories. Hammett’s longtime lover Lillian Hellman once called the tale “a kind of key to his life,” and novelist James Ellroy linked the episode to “the great theme of [Hammett’s] work.”
"Trouble is, the story probably isn’t true.
"And that’s not news, by the way. Hammett’s biographer Richard Layman called the story “implausible” in his 1981 book “Shadow Man,” and Ellroy has labeled it “mythic.” But in his new book, “The Lost Detective,” Nathan Ward analyzes and dismantles the claim in more detail, part of an extensive bid to clarify Hammett’s early years and his transformation into one of the most influential crime writers of all time." - https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinio...
I don't necessarily believe the above assertion of 'implausibility' but, then, I haven't read The Lost Detective. Be that as it may, Red Harvest has always struck me as a critique of detectives rather than a glorification of them. Red Harvest strikes me as a deeply felt story rooted in actual personal experiences while Brown Harvest is more of a literary exercise detached from direct detective experience. I don't respect it nearly as much as I do Red Harvest. Still, I enjoyed it.
Of course, the thing's full of literary references & a big part of the fun of reading it is to recognize them. Chapter I is entitled "A Man in Brown and a Woman in White": I don't know whether "A Man in Brown" is a reference or not & I'm not going to look it up b/c that wd spoil the process of relying on my own memory for me. "a Woman in White" is, presumably, a reference to Wilkie Collins's 5th novel, 1859, & considered to be one of the earliest mystery novels.
The protagonist is returning to his once small hometown after a 20 yr absence. He'd been the boy detective, the son of the police chief, & the smartest-boy-in-town (or so it was thought at the time). Life ain't what it usta be (or never really was) & his town's had its name changed by his archnemesis from childhood, a greedy unscrupulous man who owns a big software company:
"WELCOME TO IDEAVILLE
Our past is your future
sponsored by Black X Software,
a Blackwell Unlimited Company
"They'd gone and changed the town's name to something out of some Stalinist wet dream." - p 2
Chapter I of Hammett's Red Harvest is called "A Woman in Green and A Man in Gray". It's 1st paragraph is this:
"I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think anything of what he had done to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation. I still didn't see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves' word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better."
"richardsnary" seems to be quasi or faux Cockney Rhyming Slang. Anyway, "Ideaville"'s a nice touch, a seemingly optimistic name for a town that's as bogus as any other PR that covers vicious competition & other ruthless business practices. In 'Poisonville' it was gangsters competing, in Ideaville it's video game companies.
Our grown-up boy detective notices the changes around town:
"Clearly the current population of Ideaville need never go in want to low-calorie frozen yogurt or blueberry bagels or one-hour photo processing (with double prints)." - p 12
"I walked up Pinkwater Avenue instead, tried" [to] "not get depressed by the enormous Blockbuster Video that stood where a row of stores, including the old taxidermy shop, used to be." - p 16
Blockbuster managed to last for 28 yrs before they closed in 2013. It seems to me that "one-hour photo processing" was long gone by then. After local processing stopped, I'd send film to Dwayne's. Then, also in 2013:
"But now Kodachrome, the first commercially successful colour film, has become history itself after it was developed for the last time yesterday.
"Dwayne's Photo, a family-run business in Parsons, Kansas, was the last place in the world where the 75-year-old Kodak product could be developed.
"The die was cast after Kodak announced in June last year that it would stop making the chemicals needed to develop Kodachrome in a round of cost-cutting after the company reported a £84million loss."
SO Both one-hour photo processing & Blockbuster are things-to-be-remembered-w/-nostalgia now - a mere 16 yrs after this bk was published. Nonetheless, the process of corporatization is still ongoing. Every local hardware store I went to in my area is now out-of-business having collapsed from the Home Depot competition.
"On up Industry Street, I recognized nothing at all. The mom-and-pop storefronts of my youth had all given way to the familiar franchise names that litter mains streets everywhere, offering the comfort of the dull, the easy, the familiar and monstrously corporate." - p 14
Russell's 70+ yrs later dystopia is no longer so obviously the domain of the local crime bosses, as it was in the time of Red Harvest, it's now the domain of the metaphorical absentee landlords, the people who won't even spend their vast wealth locally.
Chapter II is "The Little Sister", "The Little Sister" is the name of Raymond Chandler's 5th novel (1949), another great one. Our hero continues to note the changes to his home town:
"The pool hall across the street was, at least, still a pool hall. Way back when, it had been the hangout for a pack of local greasers who called themselves the Lions. They were a "gang" who were a few years older than me and were serious enough about juvenile delinquincy (jeez, does anybody even use that phrase anymore? Other than me, I mean?) that even I knew better than to tangle with them. Of course, in the modern context of Crips and Bloods, with their Glocks and hookers and Columbian coke connections, the Lions' zip-guns seem as quaint as powder horns and muskets." - p 26
I'm pickin' up what he's puttin' down. When I was in high school in the late 1960s & early 1970s kids in my school stabbed each other w/ pins. That was about as bad as it got there. At the 'bad' school, Pimlico High, near the horse race track, the kids used knives. Ahh.. in another 20 yrs people will be nostalgic about automatic weapons in high school once the innovators bring in biological weapons & dirty bombs. (DO NOT DO THIS, PLEASE!!)
"The doughnut machine started spitting out blobs unbidden. One after another, little squirts of heaven were ejaculated from the nozzle and plopped into the hot fat, The counter man started punching at the off button, but the machine wouldn't respond, just kept spurting out sinkers." - p 73
Ok, that's got to be a reference to one of my favorite kids bks: Robert McCloskey's Homer Price (1943). Just as w/ the reference to Blockbusters & one-hour photo processing, even though this bk was published in 2001, it already seems dated. That's how much the world has changed in 16 yrs.
"I had to pass through a metal detector inside the door, beneath the unhappy gaze of a uniformed officer. My loose change set off the alarm, so I had to empty my pockets and go through a second time. It held up the line and evoked a few more muttered curses from behind.
""You really have security problems here?" I asked, depositing my money back in my pockets.
""Can't be too careful," the guard said, and shrugged." - p 75
The 1st time I remember going thru a metal detector was in 1978 when I went to the MOVE 9 trial in Philadelphia. Their prosecution shd've just been called a persecution since that's all it ever was. Anyway, I think the above quote shows that the bk was written pre-9/11 b/c the idea of even questioning "security problems" has practically disappeared. The hero was lucky he didn't have to take his shoes off.
The other Hammett knock-offs I've already read & reviewed, The Maltese Dog & The Malted Falcon were kid's bks. Brown Harvest definitely isn't. Our hero's dad, who our hero didn't realize was corrupt when he was a kid, has been demoted to "Drug Czar", a mocking title for his presumed duties as an investigator of illegal drug activities. Way back when, he was exposed for fucking underage girls, including ones even younger than his son.
"he was the invisible hand of decency that kept even a quiet Midwestern burg from crossing too far over the already unsteady line of its own uncertain moral disorder.
"Until, that is, he started taking kickbacks from property developers.
"And blow-jobs from underage whores." - p 81
Russell ends Brown Harvest w/ "Acknowledgements". Truly telling about how much life has changed since the '50s is the last paragraph of this:
"And Rosie, if ever you read this goofy book, remember that your dad promises to never be like the Czar, though you'll always be his little czarina." - p 341
The father-son have a little talk.. after 20 yrs of separation:
""Getting much these days?" I asked.
"He frowned in puzzlement, then followed my gaze to the stickers. A wave of anger passed across his face, but it dived off just as quickly into the fresh glass of gin.
""Probably as much as you got in prison," he slurped. "'Cept I don't have to bend over to get mine."
""Son of a . . ."
""Didn't think I knew about that, huh? You ain't got the patent on knowing, sly boots. What was it now? Three years in a . . . medium-security facility, was it? Computer fraud, right?"
"I felt a fury in my gut, tried not to let it show. "I was a hacker," I said as calmly as I could." - p 83
Chapter V is named "Continental Ops" referring to what I think of as Hammett's earliest short-story collection. Our hero's childhood love, Sandy, whose funeral he's come back for, is revealed as having betrayed him in a way that set off the chain of down-uppance:
""You were set up, loser!"
""What are you saying?"
""Who told you about that deal? Where did you get your, as it turned out, very bad information from?"
"I hadn't thought about any of this in years. I didn't like to think about it. But I cast my mind back to the details of that final, awfui case and . . .
""Sandy," I gasped." - p 95
The Hardy Boys always solve their case & come out solid. Our boy detective gets used, fucks up, & comes out diarrhea.
Chapter VI is "Farewell My Lovely", the title of Chandler's 2nd novel (1940).
Russell's critique of what was contemporary American society way back when in 2001 includes the eeriness of what I call Professional Smilers:
""My name is Vi. Welcome to the Boxcar."
""Uhhh . . . . nice to be here."
""Yes it is, isn't it. It's so nice. So very nice."
"She reached up and pulled on a string which dangled just behind my left shoulder. A dinner bell, fashioned out of a large, dented tin can, rang out with a tome as true as the finest Stradivari.
""All aboard!" she called out and everyone in the place looked our way. Each and every diner had a big smile plastered on his face. A few even nodded at me. I looked around for Rod Serling but couldn't spot him." - p 116
How long before "Stradivari" is too obscure a cultural reference? My spellcheck doesn't recognize it, of course. How long before "Rod Serling"'s something no-one I personally know will recognize. That may already be the case w/ anyone under 40.
"west of town at Miller's Crossing" (p 142): I think of the Coen Brothers movie w/ that one. I've seen "Miller's Crossing" but I didn't even realize it was based on Hammett's The Glass Key (1931). Duh.
Chapter VII is "Playback", the title of Chandler's last novel (1958).
Given that Ideaville is a gamer town, there're bound to be gamer addicts:
""Den's a gamer, isn't he?" I said.
"Sand shrugged, half-nodded.
""You see how he looks," she said, matter-of-factly.
""Terminal?"" - p 165
Fatal gaming. Too much of a good thing.
"["]You mean that they killed her, right?"
""And they know that you know? How could they let you live?"
"Sandy turned away again. I do things for them. All kinds of things."
""So they've helped you set all this up?"
""Yes. They use me in their fight against Roach and Blackwell."
""Good. That'll work for us."" - p 172
Let's cf that to the beginning of chapter IX of Red Harvest, shall we?:
"We had another drink.
"She put her glass down, licked her lips, and said:
""If stirring things up is your system, I've got a swell spoon for you. Did you ever heard of Noonan's brother Tim, the one who committed suicide out at Mock Lake a couple of years ago?"
""You wouldn't have heard much good. Anyway, he didn't commit suicide. Max killed him."
""For God's sake wake up. This I'm giving you is real. Noonan was like a father to Tim. Take the proof to him and he'll be after Max like it's nobody's business. That's what you want, isn't it?"
""We've got proof?"
""Two people got to Tim before he died, and he told them Max had done it. They're both still in town, though one won't live a lot longer. How's that?"
"She looked as if she were telling the truth, though with women, especially blue-eyed women, that doesn't always mean anything." ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 26, 2017
Feb 28, 2017
Jul 01, 2003
really liked it
Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 22, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com review of
Qiu Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 22, 2017
Read the full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/....
This is just the truncated review:
As I've probably written at least a few times elsewhere, I rejected crime fiction as a not-particularly literate populist genre for decades until I finally read writers such as Dashiell Hammett & Raymond Chandler. Now that I'm an enthusiast for the genre I'm discovering more & more of its practitioners to be both interesting writers & highly perspicacious political commentators & historians.
I'd noticed titles by Xiaolong at my local favorite used bookstore but hadn't pd them much mind. One day I realized that it'd be interesting to read Chinese crime fiction given my almost complete dearth of knowledge about Chinese literature at all. SO I got this bk w/o any particular high expectations for it - more just thinking it's about time I read something Chinese.
Whether that's what I've accomplished or not is somewhat ambiguous to me. While the novel heavily centers around Chinese politics in the 1990s, post the Tianamen Square suppression of protests in 1989:
"The Tiananmen Square Massacre, commonly known in China as the June Fourth Incident (六四事件)[a] were student-led demonstrations in Beijing in 1989. More broadly, it refers to the popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests during that period, sometimes referred to as the '89 Democracy Movement (八九民运). The protests were forcibly suppressed after the government declared martial law. In what became widely known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks killed at least several hundred demonstrators trying to block the military's advance towards Tiananmen Square. The number of civilian deaths has been estimated at anywhere between the hundreds to the thousands." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananm...
its author moved to the United States around that same time. Therefore, while the descriptions of Chinese politics may be perfectly accurate there's always the doubt that they might also serve US propaganda purposes. In general, I choose to accept the novel's descriptions, largely b/c they're subtle enuf & true to my experience of human nature enuf to seem realistic. Nonetheless, perhaps a grain of salt from the Red Sea is appropriate.
In fact, I began to wonder if the novel had ever been read by a Chinese readership, ie: if it'd been translated from the original English into Chinese. This led to my finding an interesting article downloadable as a PDF online:
"Annali di Ca' Foscari, Serie orientale
Vol. 51 — Guigno 2015
"Qui Xiaolong's Death of a Red Heroine
in Chinese Translation
A Macro-Polysystemic Analysis
"Paolo Magagnin (Università Ca' Foscari Venezia, Italia)"
Rather than reproduce the entire 14pp, I choose a 2 paragraphs that're most politically to the point:
" 113, 184); critical, sarcastic or otherwise disrepsectful remakrs about Mao Zedung and his leadership (e.g. Qiu 2000, pp. 19, 61; omitted in Qiu 2003, pp 18, 59)"
"However, a certain number of references to other more or less sensitive socio-political issues are faithfully replicated in the metatext, such as the scars left by the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution, the 1957 Anti-Rightist campaigns and other campaigns (e.g. Qiu 2000, pp. 93. 166, 248, 253, 264; preserved in Qiu 2003, pp 97, 160, 242, 246-247, 256 respectively)"
Magagnin goes on to deduce from these observations that:
"Our analysis shows the existence of a central political system that generally does not accept the discussion of sensitive issues, such as the status and authority of the governing party and its leadership, the decline of socialist ideology and the disillusion of the governed, media censorship, the repression of political protest and violation of human rights (such as the Tian'anmen crackdown), the presence of ubiquitous corruption in a Chinese metropolis (as the deletion of the name of the city seems to suggest: the actual setting, however, is an open secret, since reviewers and scholars overtly refer to Qiu's works as being set in Shanghai) etc.
"However, the same central political system seems to allow some forms of cautious criticism of the most disastrous political campaigns of the Maoist era (mainly the Cultural Revolution and the Anti-Rightist Campaign), the expression of moderate dissatisfaction with the old or the new political line of the Communist Party, as well as the denunciation of corruption — understood as an umbrella term for <> (Kinkley 2007, p. 4) - provided that it addresses specific and localized instances of illicit behavior, and does not question the image of the Party as a whole." - edizionicafoscari.unive.it/...death-o...
Thank you, Paolo Magagnin. Magagnin's analysis about what happened to the Chinese translation more or less reinforces Qiu Xiaolong's political descriptions. Unfortunately, I don't read Chinese so I can't verify Magagnin's take on things. I've also never lived in China so it's quite possible that I'm entirely too prejudiced for my opinion to be of much 'objective' value.
The protagonist, Chief Inspector Chen, is a poet & a scholar whose State-directed path has led him into the police dept. Thru patronage he's advanced more rapidly than wd've ordinarily been the case & he's been fortunate enuf to receive a private apt:
"At the end of the Cultural Revolution, Chen entered Beijing Foreign Language College with a high English score on the entrance examination and then obtained a job at the Shanghai Police Bureau. And now there was another demonstration of Chen's good luck. In an overpopulated city like Shanghai, with more than thirteen million people, the housing shortage was acute. Still, he had been assigned a private apartment." - p 10
Still, considering that he's a Chief Inspector in a Special Case dept the apartment isn't much by 'Western' standards - even a drastically overpriced slum apt is NYC is probably better:
"It was not luxurious. There was no real kitchen, only a narrow corridor containing a couple of gas burners tucked into the corner, with a small cabinet hanging on the wall above. No real bathroom either: a cubicle large enough for just a toilet seat and a cement square with a stainless-steel shower head. Hot water was out of the question." - p 11
Still, w/in the Shanghai context, even such a minimal place wd usually be occupied by an entire family so Chen is envied.
An emphasis on culinary delights has become a recurring theme in some of the crime fiction I've been reading. In this case, Chen is making a meal for guests to celebrate getting the apt:
"For the main dishes, there were chunks of pork stomach on a bed of green napa, thin slices of smoked carp spread on fragile leaves of jicai, and steamed peeled shrimp with tomato sauce. There was also a platter of eels and scallions and ginger, which he had ordered from a restaurant. he had opened a can of Meiling steamed pork, and added some green vegetables to it to make another dish. On the side, he placed a small dish of sliced tomatoes, and another of cucumbers. When the guests arrived, a soup would be made from the juice of the canned pork and canned pickle." - p 12
Now, cf that to my review of Kyril Bonfiglioli's Something Nasty in the Woodshed:
"Is it largely peculiar to mysteries that the main character is obsessed w/ food? Or does such obsessiveness constitute a subgenre across all literature?
""How you deal with the tongue of an ox is as follows: you bid the butcher keep it in his pickle-tub for a fortnight, brushing aside his fanciful pleas that it should be taken out after eight days. Then you rinse it lovingly and thrust it into the very smallest casserole that will contain it, packing the interstices with many an onion, carrot and other pot-herb. Cover it with heel-taps of wine, beer, cider and, if your cook will let you, the ripe, rich jelly from the bottom of the dripping-pot. Let it ruminate in the back of your oven until you can bear it no longer; whip it out, transfix it to a chopping-board with a brace of forks and — offer up grateful prayers to Whomever gave tongues to the speechless ox." pp 127-128" - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...
Or to my review of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's The Buenos Aires Quintet:
"There seems to be a subgenre of crime fiction where the detectives are food connoisseurs. Agatha Christie's well-known Hercule Poirot," [..] "& Manuel Vázquez Montalbán's Pepe Carvalho:
""'I have several other alternatives already prepared: onion tortilla with cod; sweet and sour lamb with herbes de Provence, and figs in syrup.[']" - p 186
""[']I would like to draw your attention to what we are about to eat. Pantagruel potpourri!
""On the one hand, a vulgar anthology of all the meats we Argentines are so fond of; on the other, the glory of the first modern literary work devoted to the joys of pleasure and of culture: Rabelais' Gargantua and Pantagruel.[']" - p 331" - "Don't Let Them Get Away - With It! - !": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
"They had first met on a professional level. She had been assigned to write about the "people's policemen," and his name had been mentioned by Party Secreatary Li of the Shanghai Police Bureau. As she talked with Chen in her office, she became more interested in how he spent his evenings than in how he did his day job. Chen had had several translations of Western mystery novels published. The reporter was not a fan of that particular genre, but she saw a fresh perspective for her article. And then the readers, too, responded favorably to the image of a young, well-educated police officer who "works late into night, translating books to enlarge the horizon of his professional expertise, when the city of Shanghai is asleep." the article caught the attention of a senior vice minister in Beijing, Comrade Zheng Zuoren, who believed he had discovered a new role model. It was in part due to Zheng's recommendation that Chen had been promoted to chief inspector.
"It was only partially true, however, that Chen had chosen to translate mysteries to enrich his professional knowledge. It was more because he, an entry-level police officer at the time, needed extra cash. He had also translated a collection of American imagist poetry, but the publishing house offered him only two hundred copies in lieu of royalties for that work." - pp 14-15
Ok, he has to live in a tiny underequipped apartment but he "only" gets "two hundred copies"?! I suspect there're some translators/poets in the US who'd be delighted to be pd that well. All in all, tho, Xiaolong's depiction of Communist China, while not dramatically oppressive, makes it seem like a place I'd find absolutely insufferable - except for the food, wch seems pretty tasty.
"During the Cultural Revolution, the only thing close to dancing for the Chinese people was the Loyal Character Dance. People would stamp their feet in unison, to show their loyalty to Chairman Mao. But it was said that even in those years, many fancy balls were held within the high walls of the Forbidden City. Chairman Mao, a dextrous dancer, was said to have had his legs still intertwined with his partner's even after the ball." Whether this tabloid tidbit was fictitious, no one could tell. It was true, however, that not until the mid-eighties could Chinese people dance without fear of being reported to the authorities." - p 19
Scratch China off the list of potentially nice places to live. I have a hard enuf time screening my own movies in the US@ but when an attempt was made on July 23/24, 2004 to screen my "Funny Farm Summit Meeting" at the BLOG Night of Experimental Cinema in the Blue House Art Center, Chengdu Museum of Modern Art, in Shanghai it was shut down by the police. If I can't screen nudist movies & I can't dance the whole country is going to have to change before I'll budge.
"The Shanghai Police Bureau was housed in a sixty-year-old brick building located on Fuzhou Road. The gray iron gate was guarded by two armed soldiers" - p 23
Xiaolong's descriptions are very matter-of-fact & ordinary, he doesn't appear to be sensationalizing. Still, to a person like myself, already aware of the police state aspects of my own country, the presence of 2 armed soldiers in front of a police station doesn't bode well. Soldiers coupled w/ police in the US more-or-less automatically means potentially fatal & definitely violent suppression of the populace.
A woman, a model worker, has been murdered & her body has been dumped in a remote body of water wrapped in a garbage bag. It's been discovered & Chen & his assistant detective Yu are discussing the likelihood of the body's having been carried to the water in a car:
""Well, not too many people have their own cars—except high cadres, and they would not have their chauffeurs drive them around on such an errand."
""It's true. There're not too many private cars in Shanghai, but the number is increasing rapidly. We cannot rule it out."" - p 28
The negative impact of the Cultural Revolution runs as a theme throughout Death of a Red Heroine. Here's a little background:
"The Cultural Revolution, formally the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, was a sociopolitical movement that took place in China from 1966 until 1976. Set into motion by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to preserve 'true' Communist ideology in the country by purging remnants of capitalist and traditional elements from Chinese society, and to re-impose Maoist thought as the dominant ideology within the Party."
"Millions of people were persecuted in the violent struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, sustained harassment, and seizure of property. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultura...
One of Chief Inspector Chen's friends is nicknamed "Overseas Chinese Lu":
"during the Cultural Revolution" [..] "Lu's father had owned a fur store before 1949, and was thus a capitalist. That had made Lu a "black kid." In the late sixties, "Overseas Chinese" was by no means a positive term, for it could be used to depict somebody as politically unreliable, connected with the Western world, or associated with an extravagant bourgeois life style. But Lu took an obstinate pride in cultivating his "decadent" image—brewing coffee, baking apple pie, tossing fruit salad, and of course, wearing a Western-style suit at the dinner table. Lu befriended Chen, whose father was a "bourgeois professor," another "black kid."" - p 33
I must be a moderate violent anarchist b/c I'm so fucking sick of people being persecuted. I don't think the nazis shd do it, I don't think the capitalists shd do it, I don't think the communists shd do it, I don't think religions shd do it, I don't think anarchists shd do it. By all means, assist w/ stopping persecutions but don't become a persecutor yourself. Sheesh.. Is that so fucking hard to understand?!
Chen's father had also been persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. Chen finds a bk by his dad at a bookstore:
""You have an eye for books," the owner said, holding a bowl of rice covered with cabbage. "It's a hundred and twenty Yuan."
""What?" he gasped.
""It was once criticized as a rightist attack against the Party, out of print even in the fifties."
""Look," he said, grasping the book. "My father wrote this book, and the original price was less than two Yuan."
"Really," the owner studied him for a moment. "All right, fifty Yuan, with the poster free, for you." - p 35
Now, as a former bookstore owner, I can honestly say that I probably wd've given it to Chen for free if I'd been convinced of his story.. but my partners wdn't've. Then again, they wdn't've price-gouged like this either. It takes all kinds: wonderful people like myself.. & jerks. I just haven't figured out what the jerks are good for yet.
"The early chorus of the cicadas assaulted him in hot waves.
""Zhiliao, Zhiliao, Zhiliao . . . ."
"It was a homophone for "understanding" in Chinese." - p 47
I asked my Crystal Rectangle "What do cicadas sound like?" & chose to read the WordReference.com answers:
"Copyright", a "senior member", had this to say:
"I think you'll get many answers to this, for good reason. From Wiki, ... each species has its own distinctive song ... Some cicadas produce sounds up to 120 dB (SPL) "at close range", among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds. This is especially notable as their song is technically loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans, should the cicada sing just outside the listener's ear (unlikely). Conversely, some small species have songs so high in pitch that the noise is inaudible to humans.
So here's the inaudible sound ( ). And the Kansas cicada sounds like ooo-eee-ooo-eee. And the Thai coastal cicada sounds like a high-speed drill bit going through steel with no lubricant... a screech, in other words. So, maybe screech, scream, warble... and I look forward to others' cicada sounds."
"Checking Google, for what it's worth (not much, considering I didn't use quotation marks in the search):
cicada song: about 2,470,000 results
cicada noise: about 1,100,000 results
cicada scream: about 505,000 results
cicada screech: about 237,000 results
cicada chirp: about 219,000 results
cicada whine: about 188,000 results
Google results with quotation marks:
"cicada song": about 30,700 results
"cicada noise": about 5,170 results
"cicada chirp": about 1,130 results
"cicada scream": about 54 results
"cicada whine": about 34 results
"cicada screech": about 27 results"
"nzfauna", another "Senior Member", adds this:
"In entomology circles: Depending on the species, cicadas chirp or click, or a combination or both."
Now, honestly, while I appreciate the effort that these folks put into their answers I find them inadequate both descriptively & for my purposes here. Given that homophones are "Words that sound the same but have different meanings and spellings. / For example: "there", "their", "they're"." ( http://www.homophone.com/ ), it looks like I'm going to have to choose "whine" from the above list even tho I don't think cicadas whine at all. I like the sound of cicadas &, as w/ the sounds of birds, I take them as indicative of there being peace around me. Still, the word "whine" gives me a chance to bring up its homophone, "wine", perhaps wine made w/ the
Notes are private!
Feb 24, 2017
really liked it
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's No Happy Ending
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 15, 2017
I'd already read Taibo's Return to the Same City i review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's No Happy Ending
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - February 15, 2017
I'd already read Taibo's Return to the Same City in June of last year as my 1st bk by him. It picks up where this one ends, the detective hero has been murdered. SO, I knew to expect that this really wdn't have a happy ending. If I hadn't read that 1st I might've been hoping & expecting for the hero to somehow survive all the odds against him. Such foreknowledge put a weird spin on my reading experience. As I wrote in my review of Return:
"The detective hero had been killed off in the last bk featuring him. "A Note from the Author" 'explains':
"Don't ask me when and how Héctor Belascoarán Shayne came back to life. I don't have an answer. I remember that on the last page of No Happy Ending rain was falling over his perforated body.
"His appearance in these pages is therefore an act of magic. White magic perhaps, but magic that is irrational and disrespectful toward the occupation of writing a mystery series."
The character, apparently resurrected, is not exactly in a hurry to jump back into risking his life again" - https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
Anyway, this resurrection created a happy ending for the book w/o one. Good. I like happy endings. This one's happy for me for various reasons: it's short, it's easy to review. I've recently written 2 long reviews & need a break. See? Everything's happy. The beginning murder has a theatrical aspect to it:
"A Roman foot soldier sat on the toilet, staring at the tile floor, his throat slashed.
"Blood oozed slowly down the brass breastplate, over the short, pleated skirt, the hairy legs, and into one sandal. A helmet with a faded plume rested on his head. A long wooden spear leaned against the wall.
""They've gone too far this time," Héctor muttered, cautiously lifting the Roman's chin. A four-inch gash cut across his throat.
""The sons of bitches who killed this guy."" - p 4
That got me to thinking: Are there no other types of "Roman soldiers" other than this ancient stereotype? EG: Is there a contemporary Roman solider wearing body armor against bullets & a helmet with a face-plate & that sort of thing? Or wd that be an Italian soldier? Having the 1st victim be an atavistic one created an unexpected spin that had to be resolved. the corpses increase w/ no obvious explanation:
"And now this: two dead men and a plane ticket to New York to keep him from sticking his nose in where somebody thought it didn't belong. But if they didn't want him to get involved, then why the hell had they gone and dumped a dead Roman in his bathroom, and then sent him a photograph of this other guy?" - p 8
Detectives are like obsessive-compulsives seeking closure. They must know. That's the way they work - or, at least that's the way they work in novels. In real life they probably fake evidence just to get pd or are perfectly happy to stop investigating something if they get pd to stop, etc.. It's hard for me to believe that (m)any of these novelistic heros have ever existed. I have a friend who worked for a detective agency. His boss wd send him out to test people's phones to see if they were tapped. My friend didn't know the slightest thing about that. He'd pretend & the detective wd give the client a report that their phone wasn't tapped. Maybe that's more common. These days what do detectives do? Background checks thru some online service that they pay for?
This is one of those 'exotic character' novels where the people are unusual & that helps keep the story interesting:
"The Filipino enjoyed passing on his art, and you were a good disciple. After the course in gymnastics, you went on to karate, and from there (once again the hand of fate) to the esoteric secrets of the escape artist, magician, and daredevil. The Filipino had once worked as an assistant to an Indian contortionist, touring bars and clubs in California, and he knew some unusual and wonderful tricks. So unusual and so wonderful, in fact, that you would spend entire sleepless nights contemplating the subtleties of escape from a sealed coffin, from a straightjacket, of the dangerous motorcycle jump through a ring of fire.
"A year and a half passed in strenuous training, and then one day the Filipino disappeared." - pp 38-39
I reckon that Taibo knew he had a winner when he thought of having the novel revolve around his hero avoiding getting killed & then finally failing to do so. There're plenty of plot twists in this but that No-Happy-Ending business must've been enuf of an Ace-Up-The-Sleeve to keep this novel short & breezy. I love it when I read something that I know was inspired:
"The first shot hit the stack of papers. Thousands of words flew in all directions, leaving the smell of fresh ink in the air." - p 88
Beautiful. Instead of immediate blood & guts the reader gets "thousands of words" flying in all directions. SO, our hero investigates more & more:
"This shadowy, violent organization had shown evidence of its existence before. The first time was during the Ayotla Textile strike, when a paramilitary group appeared out of nowhere, shooting and beating the picketers before the laughing gaze of the police." - p 103
"The official explanation wrote the whole thing off as an unfortunate clash between antagonistic student groups. But then there were the photographs of the army-issue M1 rifles, and the riot police allowing the armed men to pass unopposed, and the tape recordings from the police radio frequency, over which police officers directed the Halcones' attack." - p 107
Taibo is always on the side of the strikers & protesters & against the side of the death squads & paramilitary groups. I'm w/ him there. Even tho this is fiction it does get those juices flowing in the direction of imagining the real-life counterparts.
But, WAIT!, maybe this isn't so fictional after all:
"The Corpus Christi Massacre, Corpus Christi Thursday Massacre, or El Halconazo (The hawk strike, so called because of the participation of a group of elite Mexican army soldiers known as Los Halcones) was a massacre of student demonstrators in Mexico City on June 10, 1971, the day of the Corpus Christi festival."
"Los Halcones (The hawks) was a black operations army group that was trained in the United States. The group was created in the late 1960s to repress demonstrations and prevent other large popular movements such as the student movement of 1968 from rising again. Their first attack against the students took place on October 2, 1969, a year after the Tlatelolco Massacre. Their initial duty, as told by the government to the public, which was not aware of their name nor their real purpose, was that there was going to be a police group that ensured the security of the recently inaugurated Metro. The members of Los Halcones were identified with nicknames and its members were of various backgrounds, including sports clubs, the police, and thugs for hire "porros" who were provocateurs created to counter and watch universities. After the Halconazo, the number of Los Halcones members increased exponentially in the UNAM and IPN); militaries, which were referred to with the nicknames "maestros" (teachers) or "paisanos" (countrymen). These militaries had at their command dozens of halcones, the vast majority of whom had participated in the Tlatelolco massacre, as well as gang members and criminals. The latter were released from jail under the condition that they form part of the new shock group with payment." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_...
Yep, that's the way Taibo & his Spanish counterpart, Montalban, rolls. For me, then, these novels become political education about Mexican politics. Note that "Los Halcones (The hawks) was a black operations army group that was trained in the United States" - cd that be at Fort Benning? Our hero speaks to a friend:
""I might not be back for a few days . . . If I don't come back, I want you to have my books on the Spanish Civil War. They're on the bookshelf in the hallway. I inherited them from my father."" - p 117
That's the sort of detail I like. The author knows that these bks are important. W/o making such provisions they might just get thrown away. Knowledge lost. Other people might just cut the pages up for collages. Knowledge lost.
"Héctor, who had never exactly thought of himself as a man on a collision course with authority, saw the State as something akin to the witch's castle in Snow White, from which emerged not only the Halcones, but other things too, like his own engineering degree, or the crap you saw on television. There were no gray areas there. It was all one big infernal machine that it was best to keep as far away from as possible." - p 139
Ah, yes, the state. Trump & his billionaire cronies wd like to do away w/ aspects of it, the aspects that provide checks & balances for their greed & White Supremacism. Then again, they'd like to keep the state b/c it enables them unprecedented access to power. Funny how that works.
Usually, I try to avoid spoilers. No Happy Ending gives me an excuse to not do that for a change:
"He'd almost reached the cover of a newspaper kiosk on the corner when a shotgun blast caught him in mid-torso and lifted his torn, broken body into the air." - p 175
No Happy Ending was published in 1981. Return to the Same City was published in 1989. It only took Taibo 8 yrs to reverse the No Happy Ending. if only real life were like that. ...more
Notes are private!
Feb 15, 2017
Oct 01, 2001
Jan 24, 2003
it was amazing
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Returning as Shadows
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 31, 2016
This bk is SUBSTANTIAL, therefore, my REAL REVI review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Returning as Shadows
- by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - July 31, 2016
This bk is SUBSTANTIAL, therefore, my REAL REVIEW is also SUBSTANTIAL. What follows is just the beginning of that. For the FULL THING go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
This is only the 2nd bk by Taibo that I've read & once again I'm very impressed. For my review of Return to the Same City go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... . Most (or all?) of the odd-numbered chapters are titled "Interruptions and Invasions" & at 1st it wasn't clear to me whose voice they were written in, where they writing from, & what the significance of the numbering of the paragraphs was:
"4. A corollary (though this is not what's interesting): Fascism is filled to no end with eagles, bronze statues, plaques, and the rest of this sort of paraphernalia; its caustic symbols fill our eyes, its torchlit parades and militarized children burn our pupils. But the truly important thing here is that this plaque was invariably cleaned every morning with a buffer and, sometimes, with polish. The buffer was a "Limcream" bran, while the polish bore no mark." - p 3
The story gradually revealed itself w/ an incredible command of writerly skill. It's a bizarre one but it's even got some 'facts' mixed in w/ its 'fiction' - in fact, the 'facts' are the main well-spring. Were nazis killing the indigenous people of Chiapas in 1941?
""They're not Castilians, and they're not the ranchers. So who are they?" asked Múgica, gently pressing the issue. "You're trying to take other indigenous communities upon yourselves. If you are Tzotziles, then you're taking on Choles. Who, then, are the instigators, the ones causing the problem?"
"The envoy shook its collective head. Didn't the general understand anything?
""They're of the cross. The ones doing the killing are of the cross."" - p 22
The broken cross as it turns out. Sometimes it seems like using nazis as the bad guys is too easy but we're not talking Dean Koontz here. This is profound literature. It might seem predictable & easy too to have the nazis be disrespectful & destructive of nature but ain't that the way of things?:
"They were fast hikers, but they scorned the jungle: they didn't bury their shit, they hacked at young shrubs for no reason, they shot birds and jackrabbits for sport, and they stripped the bark from trees." - p 27
If there's a system to the numbering in the "Interruptions and Invasions" sections I never found it. I interpret it as something to make the reader feel as if we're stumbling across fragments following a logic we're never to know. Chapter 13 on p 32 begins w/ "10":
"10. Writing a novel is fundamentally and act of shamelessness. Combing one's hair is also an act of shamelessness, if only because you're trying to cover up deep scars with a thick head of hair. But this is only a minor act, whereas writing is something much more grave. It's a masking of reality, an obscuring of fears, a reinvention of things said and, ultimately, of those who said them."
Does that make this particular narrator the author of the bk? If so, as we discover who this person is, there's significance to be read into it.. While chapter 13 ends on the number 11, chapter 15 begins w/ 16 & ends w/ 17 while chapter 17 goes from 6 to 7.
"7. What do I see through the Galileico telescope fitted with 300X Zeiss lenses which they let me keep in my cell?" - p 38
At 1st I thought this particular narrator was in jail. Then an insane asylum became more likely:
"10. Casavieja relates films to me. He understands that the iron seclusion of prison deprives a man of his most important approximation of reality: the dark theater and its magical silver screen. He's told me, with a surgeon's detail, if two films that I can only describe as being superficial and nearly illiterate: the final two films of Veronica Lake.
"He also knows that I like the novels of Hammett, and so he narrates the film versions of The Glass Key and, above all, I Married a Witch." - p 46
I have a modest collection of at least 7 movies based on Hammett stories & characters wch includes The Glass Key, wch is the title of a Hammett novel. But I Married a Witch? I don't find that title in any of the novels or in the The Continental Op or The Big Knockover short story collections, the only 2 I have. SO, I look up "I Married a Witch" & discover that it was directed by René Clair & stars Veronica Lake & not written by Hammett so I misunderstood that Hammett had anything to do w/ it.
Alas, Lake only made it to 50 yrs old before her alcoholism caught up to her & killed her. I've never pd any attn to her until Taibo got me interested. Her last 2 movies were Footsteps in the Snow (1966) & Flesh Feast (1970). I cd easily fall in love w/ her but she's been dead for 43 yrs so I don't think it'll work out too well.
By p 56, "Interruptions and Invasions" has reached 1. Is the chronology jumping around? Apparently not, b/c p 66 also begins w/ 1. One might think that there's in-fighting on p 63 but it's, shucks, all in fun:
""Strange, dark, and certainly winding is the proletariat's path. You who are a populist romantic liberal and even a bit of a libertarian . . . you have to prefer the straight and narrow, right?"
""If it weren't for the fact that I like how you write, Pepe, I'd tell you to go fuck yourself. Listening to you makes me think that maybe Marxism is a step backwards in terms of political thought, a breakdown of intelligence."
""I'd better go before you decide to take your ribbons back.""
Typewriter ribbons, ie. The person sponging the ribbons is named Revueltas:
"Revueltas was a tragic figure; he came from a family of geniuses who had all died young. Manterola remembered Silvestre the musician and especially Fermin the painter, one of Mexico's greatest muralists" - p 63
For a tiny bit more about Silvestre see this webpage of mine: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/mmm058.... .
Bit by bit, the reader pieces together the plot & deduces who's who & what they're doing:
""Tomás was too much of an anarchist to ever sing on with the Communist party.""
""Verdugo disappeared. After the whole thing with his wife, he just up and vanished. Maybe five years ago."
""I read what you wrote about that. What a story."
""Verdugo was always close to tragedy. Flirting with it."
""But he's not in prison, is he?"
""Frankly, I don't know. One day I asked about him, and nobody knew anything. No word about prisons, about morgues, nothing."" - p 68
It's interesting to think that in today's world of rapid travel between very different environs that not only do diseases travel fast but so do immunities to them. It hasn;t always been this way:
"in the corner of the state of Chiapas and on the border of Guatemala, lies the region of Soconusco, isolated and unpopulated, devoid of roads and ports, forever condemned to be the periphery of the periphery.
"Here a simple virus, a flu, brought unknowingly by the conquistadors, devastated the indigenous population." - p 73
When it comes to some types of historical detail I assume that there's an attempt to have accurate background:
"Behind this miracle of coffee were thirty-two German plantations on which lived no more than three hundred German citizens and their families, the twenty-five haciendas, property of their Mexican partners, but above all the hundreds of ill-fated farmhands who lived in slavelike conditions and the thirty or forty thousand contract laborers paid in slave wages.
"The Mexican Revolution never reached this region, whose agrarian order remained intact. As far as ranch towns go, Tapachula was cosmopolitan, even European: the Castillian and French languages were used to transmit orders, originally in German, to workers who spoke the various Mayan dialects." - p 75
But let's not assume. Here's what a promotional website for one of the coffee companies of the region has to say for itself:
"It all began...
"...more than 60 years ago: In 1941 the late Don Juan C. Luttmann, an outstanding coffee producer and promoter of Mexican coffees, founded the coffee exporting company Exportadora de Café California in Tapachula, Chiapas, one of Mexico's leading coffee regions close to the Guatemalan border. Now, in their third generation, the Luttmann family's dedication to coffee has not wavered. Being a reliable partner to both farmers and roasters is still one of the most important aspects of their company's philosophy.
"In 1993 Neumann Gruppe, Germany, and the Luttmann family decided to combine their know-how, creating one of today's largest green coffee exporting companies in Mexico.
"Being a part of Neumann Kaffee Gruppe, Exportadora de Café California has benefited over the years from the expertise of the world's leading green coffee service group. The combination of a traditional and reliable business with modern risk management makes our company unique in the Mexican coffee sector.
"Exportadora de Café California plays a central part in the Mexican coffee export business with a market share of around 20%. At the same time the company is a main supplier to the local industry." - http://www.eccmexico.com/aboutus/history
&, gosh, there's no mention of slave labor or any connection between the German families & naziism. Another website does little more than describe the coffee:
"Located in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas, Turquesa, which is located in the southernmost part of the Chiapas coast extending south from the Ulapa River to the Suchiate River. The dry mill is located in the town of Tapachula, Chiapas, “between the waters.” In native Aztec Nahuatl and Tapachula it’s “between the waters” due to the area’s persistent flooding.
"This is one of those coffees that doesn’t necessarily bowl you over, but just because of that can be enjoyed without burning out on it. The prep is outstanding, and the flavor leans a little more toward nutty than our organic option which is a bit more chocolate. It’s a subtle, balanced coffee you can drink all day." - http://www.cafemuertos.com/mexico-tap...
Let's see what Wikipedia has to say about Tapachula:
"About eighteen percent of the working population works in agriculture and livestock. About twenty three percent of these workers are not paid a salary." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tapachula
Of course, I deliberately picked that tiny excerpt from a much longer & more balanced entry just to show something relevant to the plot of this bk & to hint at the possibility that some outrages might be intrinsic to the economic system even to this day. An article from "Counterpunch - The Fearless Voice of the American Left Since 1993" gets into substantial detail about more current-day problems of coffee workers in Mexico:
"December 15, 2004
"Migration and Coffee in Mexico and Central America
"by Luis Hernández Navarro
"Reyno Bartolo Hernández died of heatstroke in the Arizona desert near Yuma on May 22, 2001. He wasn’t the only Mexican farmer who lost his life that day trying to cross the border. Thirteen of his countrymen and -women perished along with him in one more of the migratory tragedies of modern history.
"Reyno and his companions were small coffee growers from the township of Atzalan, Veracruz. Atzalan is a formerly rich region but in recent years it has been impoverished by senseless policies. Until just a few years ago, few of its residents migrated to the United States. Then the price of coffee fell, and so did the price of citrus fruits and cattle. To make matters worse, bananas were attacked by fruit flies and the coffee crop was overcome by a devastating plant disease.
"So little by little, the inhabitants of Atzalan set out along the route blazoned by small farmers from the states of Michoacan, Zacatecas, and Jalisco decades earlier. The coffee farmers began to look for a way to cross the 3,107-kilometer border that separated them from the United States, hoping to get to “the other side.” In desperation, they hooked up with the infamous polleros, the smugglers who led them to their deaths.
"Thomas Navarrete, long-time adviser to the cooperative that many Atzalan growers belong to, notes that the crisis in the region is dramatic and tragic. In many communities, around 70% of the residents have left, most to the United States. Navarrete points out that before people didn’t need to leave their communities, at least not like now. “Even Celso Rodríguez, the president of the cooperative, left to work in Arizona,” he says.
"The border has become a magnet for these coffee growers. If they get over–and many do–they earn $4-5 an hour, compared to the less than $4 a day they earn at home, if they’re lucky. In the coffee communities, the success stories from the other side are impressive. Migrants come back and remodel their houses; they pour a new roof, replace wooden planks with concrete blocks. Everyone can see and envy the changes."
"In 1989 the economic clause setting country export quotas of the International Coffee Organization was abandoned with the strong support of the Mexican government. Immediately, the price fell through the floor. Prices have gone up and down since the quota system ended, but since 1997 they have mostly gone down.
"The only ones who win in this situation are the large companies and speculators on the commodities markets of New York and London. Coffee-growing communities, already poor, have grown poorer. As a response, thousands of farmers and laborers who cultivate and harvest the crop have decided to leave their homes permanently.
"The old migration of laborers to harvest was marked by hardship. They went to the large plantations because they had to, not by choice. There they suffered abuse, hunger, and sickness. The journey was hell.
"Indigenous peoples of the highlands remember the suffering: “We’d get an advance from the plantation so when we got there we already had a debt to pay off. Then the debt just gets bigger because the plantation doesn’t give you anything, you have to pay for everything, even food In addition to the hard work, we suffered from other things on the plantation. The boss doesn’t care about the workers–if they’re sick, it’s not his concern. So they don’t give us good food and we’re always hungry Before, the foremen mistreated workers a lot, they whipped them, beat them with branches, with belts, with the flat blade of the machete, kicked them. You got punished for anything we were afraid of the plantation but we put up with it because we were poor.” - http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/12/1...
In short, in my cursory looks online for substantiation of Taibo's history of the abuses of German immigrants perpetrated on the indigenous population I didn't find much although I'm confident it's out there somewhere. I did, however, find substantiation of reasons for understanding the more general plight of migrant workers.
Some readers might poo-poo Taibo's story as overly sensationalist, as pandering to the public's taste for the lurid, as 'too conspiracy theory' or mythological. I'm convinced it's well-researched.
"The ever-cold rabbi with stained hands began again: "In the beginning, two lunatic Austrians met, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels and Guido von List. Proto-Templars, admirers of runes, occultists, holders of castles. Hitler met the former in 1909, when he had formed a neopagan organization to practice magic, promote anti-Semitism, defend racial purity, and dabble in esoteric cults. There was a magazine called Ad Astra which Hitler subscribed to."" - p 84
Ad Astra? Sound familiar anyone? It did to me & I was fairly sure it had something to do w/ the AAA (Association of Autonomous Astroanuts) or, perhaps, Stewart Home. SO, I looked for a magazine of that name in my personal library & didn't find it, I looked for a file card of my correspondents under that name & didn't find it, I looked for anything under that name in my AAA file &, Bingo!, Ad Astra! was/(is?) the name of "The newsletter of Raido AAA".
In The First Annual Report of the Association of Autonomous Astronauts ("Published April 23rd 1996"), Raido's mailing address was given as "BM Box 3641, London, WC1N 3XX". On my file card for Home his mailing address as of September, 1994, was given as "BM Senior, London, WC1N 3XX". So, yeah, naming a newsletter after an occult one that Hitler reputedly subscribed to is the kind of prank Stewart wd pull. After all, he repurposed the so-called "Protocols of Zion" used by nazis to defame Jews as a manifesto for something neoist related.
I'm reminded of a prank that my father told me about. Shortly after 'WWII', the Baltimore City Council was having a meeting in wch it was discussed about what to name the plaza in front of City Hall. One of the participants proposed that it be called "Albert Speer Plaza" or some such. The others present apparently didn't care what it was called & just voted in favor of the proposal w/o knowing who Speer was. Presumably, the prankster then revealed that he was the main nazi architect, imprisoned as a war criminal, & the voters retracted.
This type of esoteric dark humor is given further background in informative passages of Taibo's such as this:
"["]Dietrich Eckart intervened in the operation; he was a strange journalist, an admitted Satanist who, at the end of the war," [ie": 'WWI'] "edited a weekly magazine in Munich where he argued, among other things, that any Jew who tainted German blood through marriage should be sentenced to three years in prison and that any Jew convicted of a second offense should be executed. He was also a theater critic and would later go on to produce some of his own works, including In Old Bavaria and Springtime for Hitler."" - p 85
" Springtime for Hitler: A Gay Romp With Eva and Adolf at Berchtesgaden is a fictional musical in Mel Brooks' 1968 film The Producers, as well as the stage musical adaptation of the movie, and the 2005 movie adaptation of the musical. It is a musical about Adolf Hitler, written by Franz Liebkind, an unbalanced ex-Nazi played by Kenneth Mars (then by Brad Oscar and Will Ferrell in the stage musical and the 2005 film respectively).
"In the film, the play is chosen by the producer Max Bialystock and his accountant Leo Bloom in their fraudulent scheme to raise substantial funding by selling 25,000% of a play, then causing it to fail, and finally keeping all of the remaining money for themselves. To ensure that the play is a total failure, Max selects an incredibly tasteless script (which he describes as "practically a love letter to Adolf Hitler"), hires the worst director he can find (Roger DeBris, a stereotypical homosexual and transvestite caricature), and casts an out-of-control hippie named Lorenzo St. DuBois, also known by his initials "L.S.D.", in the role of Hitler (after he had wandered into the wrong theatre by mistake during the casting call -- "That's our Hitler!"). ...more
Notes are private!
Jul 26, 2016
Aug 03, 2016
Oct 01, 1997
really liked it
**spoiler alert** review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Return to the Same City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 28, 2016
Yeah, my full review was too **spoiler alert** review of
Paco Ignacio Taibo II's Return to the Same City
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 28, 2016
Yeah, my full review was too long for here so go to "Return to the Same Old Shit" for its full glory: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I was looking for work by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán at the library for a friend of mine to get out. The library worker who was helping us recommended Taibo. I got the impression that Taibo was 'old', maybe early 20th century - but, then, the library guy was young so somebody who wrote before he was born might've seemed 'old' to him - or maybe I just misunderstood.
Anyway, the library worker got me interested. I love Montalbán's writing b/c it's very politically informed & I was told that Taibo was much the same. SO, I started looking for Taibo in used bookstores & I cdn't find anything by him anywhere. I started thinking they might be old hardbacks, out-of-print, not likely to be reprinted. THEN I found this: a mass market paperback, originally copyrighted 1989, translated English edition published in 1997, really not that 'old' at all. As it turns out, the guy's only 4 & 1/2 yrs older than me. The librarian was dead on, tho, Taibo's about as close to Montalbán as I cd hope for, a truly excellent political mystery writer.
The detective hero had been killed off in the last bk featuring him. "A Note from the Author" 'explains':
"Don't ask me when and how Héctor Belascoarán Shayne came back to life. I don't have an answer. I remember that on the last page of No Happy Ending rain was falling over his perforated body.
"His appearance in these pages is therefore an act of magic. White magic perhaps, but magic that is irrational and disrespectful toward the occupation of writing a mystery series."
The character, apparently resurrected, is not exactly in a hurry to jump back into risking his life again:
"The phone rang again.
""Could we meet?" asked the woman with the Peruvian? Bolivian? Chilean? Mexican? accent.
""Do we know each other?"
""I do, yes, I know you a little."
""What kind of bra do you wear?"
""No, nothing. It was to see if we knew each other." Héctor said, playing with the knife. "I now see that we don't."
"He hung up again". - p 8
He avoids the job over & over again. He also thinks of Cortázar, thusly endearing himself to me. This is a philosophical detective.. &/or writer.
"Elisa had once read aloud something Cortázar wrote about the train station in New Delhi and the sensation he'd been filled with—that you cannot cohabitate with certain dark regions of this world without becoming a little cynical, turning into a real son of a bitch" - p 10
Sometimes it's easy to tell wch generation a person has grown up in. My parents, born in the mid-1920s were 'conservative' in almost every way. A generation born in the mid 1940s might have been more exposed to consciousness-expansion drugs, might be more comfortable w/ rock'r'roll morés. A generation born in the 1960s might take graffiti a bit more for granted as socially acceptable:
""I paint on top of their paintings. I go out at night with my spray can and paint over theirs. It's war."
""But what do you paint?"
"Punks are Strawberries, Long Live Enver Hoxha, or Che Guevara Lives, He's a Living Ghost, Be Careful Assholes, He Lives in the Neighborhood, or Sex Punks Were Born With a Silver Spoon in Their Mouths, or If a Dog Falls in the Water, Kick Him Until He Dies. Some come out too long, they're not effective" - p 13
The messages here strike me as mostly ambiguous, They're probably full of references I don't get. I assume that "Punks" refers to the same subculture in Mexico as it wd in the US. I assume that "Strawberries" is a derogatory term so I look it up:
"Fresa (Spanish for strawberry) is a slang social term used in Mexico and some parts of Latin America to describe a cultural stereotype of white spanish superficial youngsters who, by the traditional definition of the word, came from a high class and educated family and nobility. The word was originally used by teenagers and young adults alike. Nowadays, its use has spread to all age groups. Lower class meztisas are often called "NACAS" who are heavily mixed with Natives of the area.
"The term fresa may be considered synonymous with the term "preppy" which originated in the United States in the 1960s to define teenagers with a conservative mentality, who did not drink and proudly displayed their social status. In Mexico, during the 1970s, the meaning changed and became a term to describe the lifestyles of the youth who were wealthy and well-known.
"However, the current usage of the term in Mexico has its origins in the late 1980s. During the rapid change in society as a result of globalization, which brought new forms of fashion, food and entertainment into the culture, a number of Mexican people began to adopt the "preppy" American lifestyle by mimicking American styles of dress, mannerisms and etiquette. Some examples include wearing polo shirts, boat shoes and chinos. The colloquialisms used by fresas is often referred to as "fresa talk"."
Now, "Punks" may still refer to the same subculture that it does in the US & the palimpsest graffitist might be saying that the punks are really preppies. That certainly wdn't've been the case in the punk culture I was around in BalTimOre in the late 1970s & early 1980s where most of the people were working class or lower middle class.
As for "If a Dog Falls in the Water, Kick Him Until He Dies": taken literally, it's pretty mean, taken metaphorically, it's also pretty mean. I don't think I understand the cultural reference.
"he walked over to the record player and put on Silvio Rodríguez's latest. Side A, track three." - p 20
Ok, I'm sure that I have a Rodríguez CD so I was proud of myself but I just went looking for it twice & didn't find it so now I'm disappointed in myself. Anyway, if this bk is supposedly taking place around 1987 the record in question might be "Árboles" made w/ Roy Brown & Afrocuba & the song might be "Mujer poetisa" (wch might mean "woman poet" or "poetess woman").
Héctor holds off on taking the job until given the right incentive:
"The elevator creaked up to the office as Héctor was trying uselessly to recover the last year of his life. The elevator door opened before it should have. Alicia gave hima lavish smile and entered without his being able to stop her. She pushed the 6th floor button.
""Alicia, remember?" she said.
""No, I'm not Alicia. I'm a retiree going to the third floor. More than two floors of stoppage against my will can technically be considered an abduction," he said and looked down at the elevator floor.
""Damn it," the woman said.
"Héctor looked at her.
"Alicia was wearing a sweater and black wool pants. She grabbed her sweater at the waist and slowly lifted it to expose here breasts to the open air. She wasn't wearing a bra. They were bigger than they suggested when covered. Pointed, with pink nipples.
""It's true, one is bigger than the other . . . In addition to the abduction, rape . . ."
"She put her sweater back where it belonged. Héctor felt dejected. It was like wearing a muzzle. Didn't they say the mouth was faster than the brain? The door opened onto the sixth floor. Defeated, Alicia pressed the third floor.
""It's okay, I give up," Héctor said. "I'm listening."" - p 24
The case is ostensibly about a husband who drives a wife to suicide:
"That guy would get high and turn red from all the shit he put up his nose, injected into his veins, and then he'd think himself a man and his dick wouldn't work for shit. How could foolish Elena go and marry a wretch like that? My sister was naive, she was an absolute idiot. Because the guy was handsome. Luke Estrella, the handsome rumba dancer, the charmer." - p 28
Seems realistic to me. So the ostensible sister of the ostensible wife wants revenge:
"You've got to fuck him up, for me. He's coming to Mexico next week. I'm sure, he's arriving on Pan Am's Thursday night flight. Pan Am from New York. I work for an airline and I asked all my friends to tell me if his name came up on the computer. He's got a reservation to come to Mexico on Thursday and no doubt he's going to pull some kind of shit, because that's the only thing he knows how to do. Up there in Miami, he was always involved in strange things, in drugs, I think, and that shit, with the Cuban mafia in Miami, the gusanos, the guys who owned the neighborhood." - p 29
Again, seems realistic to me. I remember a coke head bragging to me that he'd deliberately spill coke on the floor to watch the "coke whores" crawl around w/ their asses in the air to snort it. As for the Cuban mafia? The Cuban revolution was sensible enuf to evict them from the country, the US was idiotic enuf to import them as 'assets'.
"He had read in a novel that a paranoid could be defined as a Mexico City citizen with an acute perception of reality and an abundance of common sense." - p 43
I remember William S. Burroughs referring to "practical paranoia", a paranoia that recognizes that the most incredibly fucked-up things can, & do, happen.
Taibo has referenced Cortázar & Hammett already & now:
"In his decalogue on mystery novels, Chandler forgot to prohibit detectives from getting metaphysical" - p 45
3 of my favorite novelists. He never does reference Montalbán tho so I have to wonder about that. Taibo doesn't prohibit his detective from being foolish:
"Héctor thought about the distance. He needed to back off. He'd approached Estrella twice. A one-eyed man is exceedingly visible, like a brand of cola on a television ad, you always get the feeling you've seen him before. The only thing he was missing was a fluorescent T-shirt and a couple of rumba dancers hanging off his arm. He would have to get the glass eye out of the dresser drawer, he would have to put on a no-man's face, he'd have to dress like a lamppost, anonymous, like an ad for something out of style, he would have to follow Estrella from a distance if he wanted to fuck him." - p 46
"Luke Estrella moved through Mexico City without much hesitancy, including knowing a few codes that are usually reserved for natives and denied to tourists, like not hailing the taxi in front of the hotel, but walking a couple of blocks and stopping one as it passed, which would certainly be cheaper; like wrapping your big bills inside smaller ones; like you don't need coins for the public phones because even though the instructions order you to insert one, after the earthquake the phone company disconnected the payment system due to the emergency system and it's still that way." - pp 49-50
What a remarkably effective passage. Taibo explains so much w/ such concision.
"On this day" [ September 19] "in 1985, a powerful earthquake strikes Mexico City and leaves 10,000 people dead, 30,000 injured and thousands more homeless." - http://www.history.com/this-day-in-hi...
The detective crosses paths w/ an investigative reporter. Like Montalbán, Taibo's writing is peppered w/ political references that must seem pretty opaque to underinformed readers:
"There's still a third rule. The interesting one is the one whose name is not mentioned, the one they tell you isn't important, the one your usual sources seem to ignore.
"Gary Betancourt fit the three rules, one after another. He appeared casually as a second reference while I was investigating the assassination of Olaf Palme. No big deal, a very secondary mention in a newsletter of the Swedish groups in solidarity with Central America, mentioning that the Cuban had tried to infiltrate them. They used that name, Gary Betancourt. I didn't give a shit about the story, I was trying to establish connections between the assassins of Orlando Letelier and those of Palme." - pp 59-60
Orlando Letelier is someone I've heard of, I wasn't familiar w/ Olaf Palme so I decided to check online to see if he's a fictional character inserted into a context of real politically-motivated murders:
"Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, was assassinated on 28 February 1986 in Stockholm, Sweden, at 23:21 hours Central European Time (22:21 UTC). Palme was fatally wounded by a single gunshot while walking home from a cinema with his wife Lisbet Palme on the central Stockholm street Sveavägen. Mrs Palme was slightly wounded by a second shot. The couple did not have bodyguards at the time.
"Although more than 130 people have confessed to the murder, the case remains unsolved" - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassi...
About Letelier a bk entitled The CIA's Greatest Hits by Mark Zepezauer & published by Odonian Preess has this to say:
""Are you the wife of Orlando Letelier?" asked the anonymous caller, "Yes," she answered. "No," the caller said, "you are his widow."
"A week later, on September 21, 1976, the exiled Chilean diplomat and prominent critic of the CIA-backed Pinochet regime" [..] "was torn to pieces by a car bomb on the streets of Washington DC. Also killed was Letelier's American aide, Ronni Moffit. Her husband, blown clear of the car, immediately began shouting that Chilean fascists were responsible for the atrocity.
"He was right, but those fascists had powerful allies in Washington. An FBI informant knew of the plot to assassinate Litelier before the fact but the FBI did nothing to protect him. After the combing, CIA Director George Bush told the FBI that there'd been no Chilean involvement whatsoever." - pp 56-57
There's even a bk entitled Assassination on Embassy Row by John Dinges & Saul Landau (Pantheon Books, 1980). Landau has been somewhat well-known to me as a primary exposer of CIA dirty tricks in Latin America. One of many people mentioned in Assassination on Embassy Row is Orlando Bosch, a terrorist mass-murderer apparently so highly favored by Bush Senior's administration that one of his parting acts from the presidency was to pardon Bosch who was released from a US prison & allowed to live in Florida to the ripe old age of 84:
"Orlando Bosch Ávila (18 August 1926 – 27 April 2011) was a Cuban exile, former Central Intelligence Agency-backed operative, and head of Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, which the FBI has described as "an anti-Castro terrorist umbrella organization". Former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh called Bosch an "unrepentant terrorist". He was accused of taking part in Operation Condor and several terrorist attacks, including the 6 October 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which all 73 people on board were killed, including many young members of a Cuban fencing team and five North Koreans. The bombing is alleged to have been plotted at a 1976 meeting in Washington, D.C. attended by Bosch, Luis Posada Carriles, and DINA agent Michael Townley. At the same meeting, the assassination of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier is alleged to have been plotted. Bosch was given safe haven within the US in 1990 by President George H. W. Bush, who in 1976 as head of the CIA had declined an offer by Costa Rica to extradite Bosch." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando...
"An even more dubious case than Hammer’s also reached Bush’s desk during the first year of his presidency. In 1989, prominent Cuban-Americans in Florida began agitating for the release of Orlando Bosch, a notorious anti-Castro terrorist then serving a prison term for entering the United States illegally. American intelligence and law enforcement authorities firmly believed that Bosch was responsible for far worse actions, including the 1976 explosion that brought down a Cuban airliner, killing all 76 civilians aboard, although Venezuelan prosecutors had failed to convict him of that terrible crime. There was certainly no question that Bosch was an advocate of terror and had been involved in numerous bombings.
"The Justice Department wanted to deport Bosch because, according to the FBI, he had “repeatedly expressed and demonstrated a willingness to cause indiscriminate injury and death.” Freeing Bosch at a time when Washington was condemning terrorism abroad would obviously be hard to explain — had someone asked.
"But Miami’s leading Republican contributors and politicians persistently lobbied Bush to free Bosch, insisting that the former pediatrician was really a noble freedom fighter. And in 1990, when Bosch was eventually released and permitted to reside in Florida under an extraordinary deal with the Bush Justice Department, much of the credit went to the alleged mass murderer’s best-connected White House lobbyist — a budding local politician named Jeb Bush. The Bush son who would be elected governor of Florida eight years later had, by 1990, already become wealthy in real estate and other deals with the same Cuban exile businessmen who wanted Bosch to be freed. Among Jeb’s business partners active in the Cuban-American National Foundation, the institutional advocate for Bosch, was one Armando Codina, also a regular GOP donor and activist. (Codina, however, tells Salon that he neither supported the release of Bosch, nor ever lobbied his business partner, Bush, on the issue.) According to the administration’s spokesmen, however, all those personal and financial ties were just a set of happy coincidences. Anyway, nobody in the mainstream media or on Capitol Hill got upset because the president’s son had opened prison doors for an unrepentant terrorist." - http://www.salon.com/2001/02/27/pardo... ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 21, 2016
Jun 29, 2016
Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 27, 2016
Ok, ok, this isn't the complete review. Even for a bk review of
Sharyn McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - June 27, 2016
Ok, ok, this isn't the complete review. Even for a bk this simple I just had to go on & on. Read this, mutha, "Bimbos of the Something-or-Another": https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...
I bought this bk as part of my pursuit of humorous SF & of SF written by women. Given that the author's purported last name is "McCrumb" I do wonder whether it's a pseudonym & whether it's a pseudonym for a male author. An online search for "McCrumb" yields only this author but there are various genealogy pages one of wch provides this (& much more that isn't quoted here):
"McCrumb is an ancient Dalriadan-Scottish nickname for a person with blond hair. The Scottish name Crone was originally derived from the Gaelic word "cron", which means saffron, yellow-colored or dark, and refers to the complexion or hair coloring of the original bearer.
"McCrumb Early Origins
"The surname McCrumb was first found in Argyllshire (Gaelic erra Ghaidheal), the region of western Scotland corresponding roughly with the ancient Kingdom of Dál Riata, in the Strathclyde region of Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Argyll and Bute, where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.
"Translation in medieval times was an undeveloped science and was often carried out without due care. For this reason, many early Scottish names appeared radically altered when written in English. The spelling variations of McCrumb include Crone, Cron, Cronie and others." - https://www.houseofnames.com/mccrumb-...
Further research, however, convinces me that Sharyn McCrumb is a woman & that that's her real name. Her website says this:
"Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, including the New York Times Best Sellers : The Ballad of Tom Dooley, She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. Her new novel, King's Mountain, the story of the 1780 Revolutionary War battle and the Overmountain Men, was published in September 2013 by St. Martins Press, NY." - http://www.sharynmccrumb.com/bio.html
That's interesting insofar as Bimbos of the Death Sun is apparently somewhat unusual in her overall output. I like her for that - at least she's not completely stuck in a 'ballad-rut'. Her being the author of "New York Times Best Sellers" is a different story.
What constitutes a "New York Times Best Seller"? One version has it that bks are shipped out in large quantities to new booksellers & that this very large-scale shipping, arranged by distributors, is what makes the bks "New York Times Best Sellers" - they don't have to actually SELL from the bookstores. In other words, it's a prefabricated marketing gimmick, a gimmick whose success is based in the power of distribution interests. Maybe "Appalachian "Ballad" novels" fill some sort of demographic niche. Judging by Bimbos of the Death Sun I doubt that the promotion of McCrumb's work is based on her 'Nabokov-like command of the English language' or on any other critical criteria of substance.
Bimbos of the Death Sun cd be sd to be a somewhat merciless parody of SF conventions - is the author really Shryn the Merciless? McCrumb's take on some of her characters seems somewhat underappreciative of their 'real life' counterparts:
"Really, Diefenbaker would write to anybody. Just let someone in Nowhere-in-Particular, New Jersey, write in a comment to Diefenbaker's fan magazine, and Dief would fire back a friendly five-page letter, making the poor crottled greep feel liked. More comments would follow, requiring more five-page letters. Miles didn't like to think what Dief's postage budget would run. And this is what it came to: post-adolescent monomaniacs waiting to waylay him at cons to discuss Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms, or whatever their passion was. If he weren't careful, he'd get so tied up with these upstarts that he wouldn't have time to socialize with the authors and the fen-elite. Miles would have to protect Dief from such pitfalls, for his own good." - p 9
In other words, Diefenbaker is a nice supportive open-minded guy w/ alotof social energy who gets somewhat ridiculed by the author for being so. Why shdn't Dief write to anybody? Does that go against snobbishness? Against classist elitism? A "crottled greep" is a "mock foodstuff" according to Wiktionary ( https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/crottl... ) & of the 6 examples presented in their definition McCrumb's is the only one that seems to use it either incorrectly or as a metaphor as/for a derogatory description of a psychological inferior. What's wrong w/ discussing "Lithuanian politics, or silicon-based life forms"? Given the low intellectual quality of most conversations I'd say that passionate geek "post-adolescent monomania" is far preferable to the usual drek.
The victim-to-be is known to the reader from the get-go & is immediately typed as being spectacularly self-centered & obnoxious:
""Mr. Dungannon, what an honor to have you here!"
""The pleasure is entirely yours!" snapped Appin Dungannon, sounding for all the world like a peevish elf. His narrowed piggy eyes darted from one autograph seeker to another, and finally cantilevered upward to glare at Perry's plaster smile. "Are you going to get me out of here?"" - pp 10-11
I've been reading SF (& its awkward relative Fantasy) since I was at least 9 yrs old, so for something like 53 yrs now, & I still love it & find it stimulating & inspired. That sd, I've only been to, maybe, 2 SF cons in all that time - the last one being 33 yrs ago. I reckon that like most large-scale gatherings of human beings they're not for me. STILL, I'm sympathetic to them as geek-magnets, as places where people who're probably largely uncomfortable in the mainstream can, perhaps, feel a bit more socially belonging. McCrumb gets this too, although she's a bit more harsh than I wd be about the people who attend.
""Why aren't you in costume?"
"Diefenbaker looked surprised. "But I'm a wargamer!" Seeing that this reply had not proved enlightening, he explained, "The world of fandom is divided into several subgroups, mainly into hard science fiction—people who would read your book, for example—and fantasy folk, who are into Tolkein, Dungeons & Dragons, and—"
""Exactly. They're the ones in cloaks and broadswords. The rest of us settle for small tokens of resistance." He pointed to a button on his lapel that read, "Reality is a crutch for those who can't handle science fiction." "Do you play wargames, by any chance?"
""Ah . . . on the computer?"
""No. Board games. Strategy between players. Diplomacy. Kingmaker. War in the Pacific. No, I see you don't. How about SF? Who do you read?"" - p 17
I find that breakdown interesting. I don't know how accurate it is. It seems accurate enuf but probably oversimpifying. When I went to the World SF Con in BalTimOre in 1983 I went dressed in translucent pants & jacket w/ no clothing on underneath. On the back of the jacket were 4 glow-in-the-dark rectangles arranged to look like windowpanes w/ lite coming thru them. I walked to the Con from my place on city streets surrounded by 4 or so friends to shield me from police scrutiny & when I got there & was asked for my ticket my companions explained to security that wearing a name-tag wd ruin my costume.
I didn't really have a ticket but my friends's strategy worked & I was let in. I remember an elfish young woman trying to figure out what fictional character I was. I was just being myself. There was a hotel rm for a Discordian gathering w/ a sign on it that sd something to the effect of "You know if you belong here" wch was probably true enuf & I decided that I didn't b/c I was less interested in being part of groups largely created by others than I was in groups that I felt like I was cocreating. Simultaneous w/ this con was the 14BX Sub-Par Con of the Church & Foundation of the SubGenius that I'd co-organized. Following it all was the neoist APT 7 that I'd organized. They were more my thing. What I'm saying is that I didn't fit into any of McCrumb's categories but I reckon I was an exception in more ways than one. Then again, the Discordians wdn't've fit her categories either. I do recall there being an unusually high percentage of large women:
""All the girls who weigh less than one-twenty wear as little as possible, and the rest of them put on cloaks and medieval dresses to conceal their bulk.["]" - p 23
Dungannon, the famous but hated author of fantasy bks featuring "Tratyn Runewind" muses about their development while he tries to write one: "The first books had been carried by his curiosity about the folklore, and when that ran out, he'd enjoyed putting his editors and his ex-wife in the manuscripts as monsters, but even that became dull after a while. Now he wrote out of inertia and because they kept waving money at him." (p 35) I find the idea of putting people you dislike into stories as monsters entertaining. It's tempting to do that.
Bimbos of the Death Sun was published in 1988. The author of the version of Bimbos of the Death Sun that's referenced w/in McCrumb's Bimbos of the Death Sun is looking over manuscripts to judge them. In one of them, he finds the technology-of-the-future wildly not-thought-thru:
"Jay Omega blinked. "Three thousand years in the future?"
""That's what the author says," nodded Marion, tapping a line of typescript.
""And they still get mail? We don't even do that on campus. I leave messages for people on the computer mainframe, and they just check their file once a day. Electronic mail. Instantaneous."" - p 51
Email wd've still been a very new thing to most people in 1988. I didn't have an email address until 1996 & that was b/c I was in the position of most people: lack of access to the technology.
"Early email was just a small advance on what we know these days as a file directory - it just put a message in another user's directory in a spot where they could see it when they logged in. Simple as that. Just like leaving a note on someone's desk.
"Probably the first email system of this type was MAILBOX, used at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1965. Another early program to send messages on the same computer was called SNDMSG.
"Some of the mainframe computers of this era might have had up to one hundred users -often they used what are called "dumb terminals" to access the mainframe from their work desks. Dumb terminals just connected to the mainframe - they had no storage or memory of their own, they did all their work on the remote mainframe computer.
"Before internetworking began, therefore, email could only be used to send messages to various users of the same computer. Once computers began to talk to each other over networks, however, the problem became a little more complex - We needed to be able to put a message in an envelope and address it. To do this, we needed a means to indicate to whom letters should go that the electronic posties understood - just like the postal system, we needed a way to indicate an address.
"This is why Ray Tomlinson is credited with inventing email in 1972. Like many of the Internet inventors, Tomlinson worked for Bolt Beranek and Newman as an ARPANET contractor. He picked the @ symbol from the computer keyboard to denote sending messages from one computer to another. So then, for anyone using Internet standards, it was simply a matter of nominating name-of-the-user@name-of-the-computer. Internet pioneer Jon Postel, who we will hear more of later, was one of the first users of the new system, and is credited with describing it as a "nice hack". It certainly was, and it has lasted to this day."
"But as it developed email started to take on some pretty neat features. One of the first good commercial systems was Eudora, developed by Steve Dorner in 1988." - http://www.nethistory.info/History%20...
I find such things fascinating. Eudora was the 1st email app I had at home & it was better than the Mail program that comes w/ Macs that I use to this day. Eudora had filters that were very handy. The version of Mail I have doesn't. The somewhat obscure present of 1988 is fairly common in 2016. Handy, very handy.
I was particularly interested in who's presented as required SF & Fantasy reading by one of McCrumb's characters:
"Marion's eyes narrowed. "I teach science fiction at the university."
"Dungannon looked pleased. "Who's required reading?"
""Clarke, Brunner, LeGuin—"
""The early works. And in the fantasy course, we teach C.S. Lewis, Tolkein—"
""Tolkein! Ah so you do mythology? What about British myths?"
""Yes, of course. There's an excellent book based on Celtic lore. The students love it."
"Appin Dungannon smirked. "Which Runewind is it? The Singing Runes? The Flag of Dunvegan?"
"Marion raised her eyebrows. "No. As a matter of fact, it's The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley."" - pp 53-54
The famous victim-to-be is disappointed that his bks aren't required reading. What wd yr required reading be? I'm not sure I'd have required reading but I've been enthusiastic about all mentioned above except for Bradley who I haven't read yet. I can't stomach Lewis anymore & I have my reservations about Heinlein's later work too.
A Scottish folksinger sets the reader straight about the 'Scottish' kilt:
"Nobody seemed to realize that the whole kilt business was thought up in the early nineteenth century, and that it was an Englishmen who'd been give Scottish peerages who wore them." - p 56
Really? That's the type of factoid that I delight in. BUT, I also doublecheck it just in case the author's fuckin' w/ us. Here's the beginning of what one website claims:
"Scottish kilts are known as “The National Dress of Scotland” and are a highly recognized form of dress throughout the world. Kilts have deep cultural and historical roots in the country of Scotland and are a sacred symbol of patriotism and honor for a true Scotsman. The word “kilt” is a derivation of the ancient Norse word, kjilt, which means pleated, and refers to clothing that is tucked up and around the body.
"Scottish kilts originate back to the 16th century, when they were traditionally worn as full length garments by Gaelic-speaking male Highlanders of northern Scotland. They were referred to as a léine, Gaelic for “shirt” and typically, the garments were draped over the shoulder or pulled over the head as cloaks. The wearing of Scottish kilts was common during the 1720s, when the British military used them as their formal uniforms. The knee-length kilt, similar to the modern kilt of today, did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century." - https://www.authenticireland.com/scot...
Weeeellllllll! That certainly goes against McCrumb's character's assertion. SO, let's try a different source:
"The history of the kilt stretches back to at least the end of the 16th century. The kilt first appeared as the belted plaid or great kilt, a full length garment whose upper half could be worn as a cloak draped over the shoulder, or brought up over the head as a hood. The small kilt or walking kilt (similar to the 'modern' kilt) did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century, and is essentially the bottom half of the great kilt.
"The word kilt comes from the Scots word kilt meaning to tuck up the clothes around the body, although the 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (vol. 15, p. 798) says the word is Scandinavian in origin. The Scots word derives from the Old Norse kjalta."
"A characteristic of the Highland clan system was that clansmen felt loyalty only to God, their monarch, and their Chief. The Jacobite Risings demonstrated the dangers to central government of such warrior Highland clans, and as part of a series of measures the government of King George II imposed the "Dress Act" in 1746, outlawing all items of Highland dress including kilts (although an exception was made for the Highland Regiments) with the intent of suppressing highland culture. The penalties were severe; six months' imprisonment for the first offense and seven years' transportation for the second. The ban remained in effect for 35 years.
"Thus, with the exception of the Army, the kilt went out of use in the Scottish Highlands, but during those years it became fashionable for Scottish romantics to wear kilts as a form of protest against the ban." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History...
Weeelllllll, these 2 online sources don't exactly reinforce McCrumb's character's assertion but that doesn't mean that the author is wrong.
I had a moment of identification w/ Dungannon, the victim-to-be. He's doing a bk signing & a guy comes to him w/ multiples of the same bk:
""You have three copies of the same book in here."
""Right. Someday you'll be dead and I'll be rich."" - p 59
Dungannon gets poetic justice in more ways than one here. Something like that actually happened to me once. My bk How to Write a Resumé - Volume II: Making a Good First Impression was required reading for an arts class at UMBC. One student DID actually wish me to be dead so that he cd profit off the bk. Another student hated the bk so much she wanted her money back for it but she didn't want to have to return it. It cost her a whopping $10 in 1992, a minute amt above actual cost of materials (I printed it myself). I wd've given her a full refund if she'd returned the bk in good condition. She didn't seem to get that. What brats.
McCrumb's parody can be pretty brutal about the attendees of the SF con where the action takes place:
"["}Women are at a premium in this hobby, and therefore even the plain ones are prized. That poor creature up there could pick up six guys by Sunday if she chose. I expect she'll settle for one."
"Jay Omega peered at Brenda Lindenfeld, who was rotating slowly to show off her hooded cloak. "Any six guys?"
""No, silly. Any six losers. You know, the terminally shy guys who have no idea how to talk to a woman; the runty little nerds that no one else wants; and the fat intellectuals who want to be loved for their minds. She can take her pick of those."" - pp 65-66
Are SF fans offended by the above? Do they even read this bk? I reckon I'm an ardent reader of SF & I read this bk & I'm not exactly offended but then I don't really see myself in the description either. AT any rate, not all of McCrumb's details ring true:
"The demented fans who read the series had hours of fun devising plausible explanations for his sloppiest screw-ups. They would churn out endless articles in their unreadable mimeographed excrescences trying to explain why Runewind's sword changed lengths or why his mother was known by two different names. So far, the two likeliest explanations—apathy and Chivas Regal—had not been suggested." - p 102 ...more
Notes are private!
Jun 20, 2016
Jun 28, 2016