shoebox_dw: (girl w/pearl earring)
...well, mostly sunny anyway. And as I pointed out to[personal profile] shing at the time, walking by the River Avon in the rain isn't a bad thing aesthetically. Think she would've been more impressed had it not also been raining on us at the time, though. So would I, come to that - having perhaps just slightly overdone the socialite wardrobe. The chiffon petals on my sweater were getting really damp. At least the swans kept their distance...

Anyway. As noted, we were in town for the festivities surrounding[personal profile] rj_anderson 's North American book launch, which was a great success. Albeit as far as I can tell she really needs to work on her auteur 'tude, because she insisted on being characteristically down-to-earth and gracious and witty to everyone, which is probably going to backfire big-time when she starts dealing with the movie rights.

For the moment, thought, schwing. The report from the source is here, and has pictures, including the one of the yummy cake, which happened after the equally yummy pizza. My kind of party. One of the blue cake butterflies (they're actually rings) is sitting on my desk beside me as I type; my conscience is hastily laying plans to donate it to one of the little girls in our congregation...while other sections of my brain are looking sceptically at the My Little Pony Happy Meal toy sitting beside it.

On a more adult level, we also had the welcome chance to check out the UK edition - the one actually called Knife, with gorgeous cover design by Brian Froud. It haz shiny!

We also met the author's family, who are...well, the kind of family you'd expect to have produced the author of a modern-day faery story. Right down to the cat Snickers, whose pics do not do justice to her beauty, and who gives the distinct impression of being a walking LOLCat waiting to happen. Just lovely people, all of them - not least because amazingly tolerant of overdressed strangers with impaired social skills scoffing kiddie cake decorations. Then again, at regular intervals one of the actual kids would come racing through the room playing superhero and/or demanding more cake, so I was feeling right at home. In all respects, a great time.

We also had a decent time in Stratford itself - dashes in out of the rain and all - [livejournal.com profile] shing  being the really splendid type of travel companion who responds to 'Hey, let's check out this Inuit art gallery!' with 'OK.' 
They've done a nice job of keeping the place antique but not overly twee, ie. no umpteen pubs called 'The Queen's Legs' or like that. Quite a pleasantly diverse set of shops, really, including one called 'The Chocolate Barr' (which must be mentioned because yes, I can in fact be bought off with smoothie samples), and a couple really decent bookstores [glances over at sale copy of Antonia Fraser's Mary, Queen of Scots now sitting on desk, sighs contentedly].

And above all, I now have a minty-fresh copy of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter sitting on my desk, with the author's signature in front and my name in the acknowledgements in the back. This was not something that ever would have occurred to me, five years or so ago, hanging around a mall with Rebecca waiting for Kalan Porter to appear; although her having brought choc-chip cookies did give me an inkling that here was someone out of the common...

...yeah, pretty much.
shoebox_dw: (butterfly gold)
[ahem]. Consider this latest layout switch a sort of tone poem on the theme of I Have Had It Up To Here With Trying To Find One That Has All The Stuff I Want. The last time I thought I'd finally nailed it, but *sigh* no, got restless after a few weeks as usual. So until the day I become a CSS master, it's minimalism or bust here @ Shoe Central.

Meanwhile. Am heading out tomorrow with friend [livejournal.com profile] shing to attend other friend [personal profile] rj_anderson 's book launch party in Stratford. (The book is called Knife in the UK and Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter in North America, and if it isn't sitting on your preteen daughter/sister/friend/random acquaintance's shelf yet, what are you waiting for? Another glass unicorn? Please.)
I love this. Besides being all excited for RJ I mean. I have been going around all week announcing to friends and co-workers that 'Oh, yes, I have a friend's launch party to attend this weekend...' and secretly feeling all smug. Except around the co-worker who's a published poet, that didn't work so well. I do have the promise of an invite to her next party, though, so it's all good. My career as a socialite is well and truly launched.

Besides, I also love road trips, and at two hours or so from the big city, Stratford qualifies. It was named quite deliberately after Shakespeare, complete with a River Avon, and swans. This is all I remember from my last trip aged nine, the swans. Because as it turns out, mute swans - you know, the ones with the cute orange beaks, right next to the unicorns on the shelf - happen to be just about as tall as a nine-year-old. And they really aren't mute at all, except that instead of honking, or any other normal waterfowl sound, they make this incredibly creepy hissing noise. Really really softly, so you don't actually hear it until they're bearing down on you wings outstretched and it distracts you just enough that WHOMP! right into the ornamental hedge. The next time I ran across a sonnet, I had great difficulty in restraining a bitter chuckle.

So that's about it, as far as a status update...what? Fiction? What fiction? *eyedart*
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
I think I may need to apologise to [personal profile] tree_and_leaf , who had barely posted her version of this one when I swooped down and bore it off delightedly. I did read her post through first, I swear (and enjoyed it besides).

1) The worst reading experience that you have ever had?

A thriller called Birdman, which I gacked off the 'New' shelf at the bookstore whilst between mystery series. The first chapter in I was already dry-heaving, but I kept going out of some vague belief that ugliness must somehow = sophisticated. I must've been nuts. Just an utterly vile string of sexual vilenesses, beginning with the random subplot in which the hero lives across the way from the paedophile who he suspects - but cannot prove - raped and murdered the hero's younger brother years ago. No, really. They trade Dark Looks over the fence each evening before bed.

2) The best reading experience you have ever had?

No question. I was ten or so, and it was the end of a long day delivering flyers for the current family business. I'd been hoarding one of the Blish novelisations of Star Trek TOS all the while; which one I forget now, only that I'd recently discovered the series, and regarded them as treasure. Shoemom had bought us candy necklaces in payment - a commodity second only to FunDips on my preteen NASDAQ - and I remember riding home in the fading light of the backseat clutching them and finally, finally cracking open the coolest book ever. Thinking to myself: 'Years from now, when you're Very Very Old, you will look back on this as A Perfect Moment.' And I became very solemn, slurping on sugar beads and contemplating the rarity of perfection. It was wonderful.

3) Which book has affected or influenced you the most so far?

The Bible. From the secular POV, probably any one of the numberless humourists I devoured as a kid. PG Wodehouse and Dave Barry especially, for making me realise it was possible to really, seriously, make someone laugh out loud with words.

In which I reveal myself as either a bibliophile or crazy or both... )myspace profile view counter
shoebox_dw: (elephant plot)
So let's cheer things up a little around here! I know; why don't we discuss Grimm's Fairy Tales, the unabridged version of which I recently downloaded to my iTouch...and...uh...

OK, yes, problem.

After a week of this becoming steadily clearer, I have just one question: Why? Can somebody find me a book or something that explains what was going on back there? Not within the stories themselves; this has become one of those ironic factoids that the entire Internet is fond of telling each other, that these classic 'children's stories' are in fact stuffed to a giant's ceilings with imagery that'd keep Jeffrey Dahmer awake nights:

It was my mother who murdered me
It was my father who ate of me
It was my sister Marjorie
Who all my bones in pieces found
Them in her handkerchief she bound
and laid them under the juniper tree
Kywhitt, kywhitt, kywhitt I cry;
Oh, what a beautiful bird am I!


--The Juniper Tree

Just another adorable bedtime story making the rounds in the Rhineland, apparently. So what I really want to know is, was everyone in mediaeval Germany frankly psychotic? Or just the Brothers Grimm?

...OK, yes, I do understand about the stories being really for adults, and life being tough, cheap and short back then. Thing is, they're so very fatalistic about it that the modern reader starts to wonder how the race made it out intact. There's a kind of nihilistic weirdness running through the whole that just screams 'Therapy!' above and beyond the context.
Blood runs like a river, deus ex machinas rule the day, people are just as likely to be rewarded for selfish acts as selfless ones, and the main difference between good and evil is that Good is a whole lot cleverer. (In one story, Our Hero makes off with a fast horse and an invisibility cloak by convincing their owners to, I kid you not, let him try them on to see if they work. And they do. This kind of thing is repeated over and over again).

Net result: numerous stories wherein people end up apprenticing themselves out to the Devil - but not, in a touch I really like, before asking  "OK, but you promise this isn't going to mess up my shot at salvation?" On the other hand, this is a belief system in which God routinely hands over enchanted packs of cards to gambling addicts, and sorceresses cease to be a problem the instant they're touched with enchanted flowers revealed in dreams, so I just don't know. Would love to hear the scholarly sociological explanations behind that last one, though. Or possibly the pharmaceutical one.

Down the rabbit hole... )
shoebox_dw: (ratatouille remy caught)

Comment to this post and I will give you 5 subjects/things I associate you with. Then post this in your LJ and elaborate on the subjects given.

So the other day, charmed and curious, I commented to this post of  [livejournal.com profile] kalquessa 's...and...

Blogging in Shakespearean English, feminism in Watership Down, Pearls Before Swine, Philistine Pollyanna, detective fiction.


OK, self, the moral here? Try not to be so dang memorable next time. Or at least, try it re: favourite bands, or chocolates, or something.

Anyway, elaboration under the cut. )
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
I'm having a reread of Lynn Truss' delightful Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and it has done wonders in calming my inner Grammar Nerd. Semicolons forever!

I suppose I might as well make a clean breast of things and identify here as an Anglophile - albeit not the cozy kind. One of the loveliest things about being a Canadian is you get to pick and choose your cultural norms, not only from among UK and American usages but a wide variety of peripherals. Mine tend to be flavoured on the tart end of the spectrum.

But I like British spellings and language conventions, I like their dry and sometimes self-deprecating sense of humour, and I like their habit of clinging onto arcane traditions and names just because there's something rather splendid in their very pointlessness. (Come to think of it, I like the British and their manner of life in the same way fellow North American Bill Bryson does - which is somehow scary and comforting all at once.)

All the things I like best about the English outlook can be summed up neatly in this passage from Martin Amis' review of Iris Murdoch's The Philosopher's Pupil, as quoted by Truss:

Each page is corrugated by half a dozen underlinings, normally a sure sign of stylistic irresolution. A jangled, surreal (and much shorter) version of the book could be obtained by reading the italic type and omitting the roman. It would go something like this:

deep, significant, awful, horrid, sickening, absolutely disgusting, guilt, accuse, secret, conspiracy, go to the cinema, go for a long walk, an entirely different matter, an entirely new way, become a historian, become a philosopher, never sing again, Stella, jealous, happy, cad, bloody fool, God, Christ, mad, crazy...


...I'm not sure why, but I'm particularly pleased with the way 'Stella' gets worked in there.
shoebox_dw: (ratatouille remy pensive)
So apparently I'm about the only over-18 female blogger who hasn't yet commented indignantly on the Twilight phenomenon.

OK then, let's fix this right now: The Twilight phenomenon.

...Seriously, I'm just not all that interested. Also, I'm not all that qualified, given I was a tender devotee of the Sweet Valley High series at the same age. Yep, up to and including the 'Super Thriller' in which the crazed spa owner, not content with her army of beautiful zombie employees, decides to redo herself as the Wakefield twins' mom by luring her to her secret underground plastic-surgery lab.

Colin Watson once remarked that bestselling authors do not get that way by shaping attitudes; they tap into existing ones. When the sparkles clear, Twilight's popularity simply reflects the latest tempting gloss on the near-universal need, among tween girls, to validate their unremarkable selves as Secretly the Most Beautiful and Special of All. Naturally this will be intuited by a gorgeous and sensitive guy, who will whisk them far away from Des Moines or wherever that their True Love may prevail over all those nasty, jealous girls in gym class.

Eventually, the ones with an ounce of sense, which I think is the majority, grow out of the fantasy and go on to find real fulfilment. The ones who don't, of course, grow up to force their bridesmaids to wear Disney-themed dresses complete with faery wings, but they provide endless entertainment for the sensible ones in the process. It works out.

For those who feel like doing some serious hand-wringing over our nation's youth, may I suggest the following headline?
Carleton University Students Drop Fundraiser for Illness Targeting Caucasians. 

Whereas Orientation week strives to be inclusive as possible;

Whereas all orientees and volunteers should feel like their fundraising efforts will serve their diverse communities;

And whereas cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men;

Be it further resolved that: The CUSA representatives on the incoming Orientation Supervisory Board work to select a new broad reaching charity for orientation week.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)

So there really wasn't a whole lot going on at work today, owing to the pre-Christmas lull setting in - that peculiar retail blank spot where all the spring orders are set and all the holiday marketing is in place, and the order entry staff (that'd include yours truly) is sitting around munching leftover Hallowe'en candy and occasionally twirling around in our chairs in an effort to look relevant.

As you can imagine, this all gets old pretty fast, especially the no-name butterscotch drops. Meaning I basically spent the day on the Internet, checking for election updates on cbc.ca (hey, it's not irresponsible if it's a respectable Canadian site, right?) Watching the ebb and flow of comments across the political spectrum started off a train of thought on, of all things, Little Dorrit, and the peculiar nature of Charles Dickens’ genius.
 

Little Dorrit is one of the most ferociously angry novels in the English language: Portrait of an Author, Mad as Hell and Not Going to Take It Anymore. The formal theme is the myriad ways in which the weighty constructs of society in the mass – government, finance, class systems – work to stifle anything decent and innovative in the individual. But you don’t have to take my word for it; the reader is reminded, explicitly, roughly 95 billion times throughout. Those familiar with the author will understand that I am not exaggerating by much. 

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (ratatouille remy caught)
..So I rustled up a few 'How to Attract More Traffic to Your Blog' articles, and interestingly enough, their advice is the same: Start by taking an active interest in others' blogs, reaching out to those with similar interests, reading their posts and commenting.

Well. Whaddaya know about that.

[blushes slightly]

*****************************************

In other news, och, am I gonna be grateful when this American election mania dies down. It's starting to affect even the funnest, most lightweight 'other blogs' I visit - even the Comics Curmudgeon came down with a bad case the other day, and it still hasn't fully recovered. Snopes.com has been all 'Here're the latest outlandishly stupid rumours an hysterically suspicious populace are taking as gospel' for weeks now. It gets dispiriting.

(If I could persuade myself that the one troll on the CC was putting on an elaborate, Dr. Strangelove-style show, it would make me feel quite a lot better. Alas, my faith is at al all-time low. These people really do hate each other, don't they?)

Thank goodness for blogs emanating from Australia, is all I can say. Specifically, that of LJ-friend lizbee, dedicated Tudors-watcher.

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (garfield well-informed)
It occurs to me - or rather it was just now shoved up through my subconscious, which is snickering madly at the idea of my setting up as a pop-cult snob - that the cult surrounding Jane Austen is in a lot of ways the hi-brow equivalent of the whole pretty pink tween experience. Granted, there's a lot more snark and a lot fewer ballads, but when you look more closely, what both come down to is the cute.
The bright and sparkly fun and excitement of femininity unleashed. Playing with love, calling yourself empowered without having to deal with the unpleasant consequences. Also, as the clincher...shiny wet semitopless Darcy.

I rather suspect the real Jane would've viewed some of her more dedicated admirers with a distinctly sardonic eye.

That feeling extends to my current reading material, Darcy's Story by Jane Aylmer. I tend to avoid the modern-day 'sequels' as a rule, just because they strike me as so wholly unnecessary, but the idea of Pride & Prejudice rewritten from the perspective of its most interesting character (sorry, Lizzy) was too delicious to resist.
As it turns out, I've really gotta work on my resisting skills. I will start by stiffening my resolve immediately I see the words 'Austen enthusiast' anywhere in the author's bio. Because of course the POV turns out to be that of the Darcy of modern myth, the Colin Firth version, constantly brooding from across the room. Oooh, whatever could he be thinking?

...the trouble being, as anyone who's honestly familiar with the book will realise instanter, that interesting does not automatically = mysterious. Mrs. Bennet-esque blithering on the dustjacket aside, Darcy really isn't that much of an enigma after all; no more his author intended him to be. She named his major motivation in the title, for cripes sake. He summarises them to the midway mark in the big proposal scene, and goes into a two-page speech on the subject at the windup just to ram the point home.

Meanwhile the moderately-alert reader is generally able to make a decent guess as to what's passing through his head at any given moment: He doesn't like Elizabeth. Then he likes her. Then he proposes to her. Then he's obviously struggling to make it up to her...etc, etc.
That's what this book is: that decent guess. There are I'm sure any number of lovely dashing stories that could be told about Darcy, even woven around deep examination of his motives, but that's no more the focus here than it is at any given moment in Zac & Vanessa's (sorry, Troy & Gabriella's) relationship.

So the original plot is reproduced down to big chunks of dialogue, with 'Darcy thought/said  _________' tacked on at the end. This is not, exactly, riotously fascinating. Save for some pleasant domestic scenes that nicely ground all the romantic speechifying at the end, even the most average Austen fan - ie. pretty much the entire target demographic - will probably find their own fantasies on the subject much more involving, not to say fulfilling.
shoebox_dw: (garfield camera)
So I'm browsing Wikipedia for Watership Down stuff the other evening, my recent purchase having rekindled my interest in all things Lapine, and discovered...

...Right, let's preface this by noting that I am not the world's most PC person. I don't - even above the clear religious scruple - like to hurt people, with words or anything else; but I also firmly believe in flattering intelligence and experience, not insulting either with obvious evasions.

Thusly it's just possible I am over-reacting to the one paragraph in the Wiki article that details the severe critical backlash the novel received on feminist grounds. That is, there are those female critics who take issue with the fact that the story's protagonists are exclusively buck rabbits, who are perhaps something less than tactful ('Is she any good [for breeding]?') in their quest to secure does to their warren.

Yeah. Didn't think so.

I spent the entire afternoon composing a long, ranty, over-the-top post re: how this criticism rests on a highly selective reading of the source (in which various other passages show doe rabbits as strong, intelligent and capable), how absurd it is to tie sociological conditioning that closely to what is patently a fantasy tale, and above all how utterly, unbelievably, how-hard-up-for-a-thesis-can-you-be STUPID it is to apply those same standards to characters who aren't even capable of recognising the need for conditioning in the first place. Y'know, their being frelling BUNNIES and all.

Then...I started picturing those same bunnies learnedly discussing 'gender identity' and burrows with 'glass ceilings', and it made me feel much, much better. 'Specially the part where they were wearing little wire-rimmed bifocals.

So instead...pretty pictures!

Fall goodness under the cut... )
shoebox_dw: (i need a hug)
So I'm having a sick day...actually, more of an "I feel intensely like staying indoors where it's warm, cuddling up in my PJs and indulging myself with hot toast and toffees" day. You know, the kind that tends to hit females once a month or so.

Seriously, I probably should feel guilty about this but I don't in the slightest. I haven't had a really good self-indulgence in ages. Besides which it'll give me a chance to do some more sorting out re: my next writing project - yes, we're back to wangsting about that again, although I've managed to keep it mostly off-blog this time. I just seriously do feel like I'm ready for the next level of literary challenge...and you know where we go from there, right? (No, not more pointless Bob & Ray trivia. Think that particular biographical urge is out of the system for now...although I can't say it'll never strike again.)

In the meanwhile, and in keeping with the general theme of all things cozy and comforting, let's get on with the next installment in the review series: Kidlit.

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (ratatouille remy pensive)
Being a young, single Jehovah's Witness in the big city can be a...fraught experience, at times. Especially when the need to unwind strikes on a Friday night.
It helps of course that I don't drink by choice, not by religious proscription; also, that I'm really not all that social an animal to begin with. Since I was a small child it has always seemed to me that there were more interesting things to do than actively seek the company of people - not cynicism, you understand, merely contented introversion. My friends tend to be those who understand this POV, and even share it to some extent.

Thus it is that my resourceful inner self and I have developed a compromise: each Friday night we seek out those more interesting things - new things, or things we know and love but simply haven't had the time to think of lately. We hike wherever our feet feel like going, heedless of time. Could be around nearby Leaside, or the Danforth, or Eglinton West, poking in stores and people-watching and just generally obeying the impulse of the moment. Sometimes Shoemom comes along, and those are good times, because her idea of an urban hike inevitably involves a good gossip and a stop at a favourite coffee shop.

**************************************************

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)

So I gave in to an impulse this month and purchased the New! Improved! Bob & Ray Book (c. 1986) as part of my audiobook subscription. And ooh, not gonna do that again. I mean there's not much chance I will do it again, that'd be silly, but just in case I should ever be tempted, no.

Let us just say - as attentive readers are now sighing and waiting for me to say once again - that their performance style depended on a sort of knowing, ad-libbed energy that's entirely missing from a straight reading of collected scripts by two elderly men. Especially given that one of them was mere months away from forced retirement due to lingering illness. You can hear Ray becoming more exhausted (medicated?) as the recording goes on... I think I'm supposed to be cheering for the game old trouper, and I would be, except it's all so bloody sad.

******************************************************

So because I now need cheering up, and because I was pretty impressed with the game old trouper for all that (a sixtysomething man using 'computer software' in the correct context, in 1986, might be the definition of codger cool) let's move on to the next installment in our review series: Humour.
 

Laffs await under the cut... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
Question: Why are people who are manifestly dressed to get attention generally so upset when they get it? Specifically, people I pass on the street, wearing leopard-patterned hair or wildly mismatched clothes or tees with snarky sayings or whatever other non-conformist behaviour is the order of the day.

I'm not talking creepy stalkerish behaviour, here. (I should point out that my own dress and grooming makes that abundantly clear.) Just a friendly, open, interested second glance: thanx for giving me something new and different to look at, I appreciate the effort. And for this - aside from the odd and welcome impudent grin - I get confused looks at best and ferocious scowls at worst.

It's enough to make a person throw up her hands and bemoan the decline of Western Civilization...except that doesn't quite feel right, either.

************************************

Anyway. So posting those capsule book reviews the other day turned out to be a lot more fun than I'd anticipated; it's been awhile since I wallowed in any new and unique parts of my psyche around here, and it was a curiously refreshing experience. Besides, I'd like to think I have fairly good taste in the general way as well.

As it happens, I've got lots of grist for this particular mill: my very first experiment in online communication - aka inflicting my random opinions on a helpless public - happened on the Chapters/Indigo website. At the time I was working on the special orders/info desks at Toronto's landmark World's Biggest Bookstore, part of the same chain. I would literally browse through the latest releases in the morning, then run upstairs to the Net cafe to write a review at lunch (and sometimes just, ah, slightly into the afternoon shift as well - sorry, Randy and Mike, wherever you are!) In that respect at least, it was a wonderful life.

So...below is the first in a reposted series of short reader reviews I wrote circa 1999-2001...at least, the decently clever ones.
I've done some close editing/proofing and removed the star ratings, and then organised them by genre as best I could. This week, I thought we'd kick off with a topic that hasn't been covered around here in awhile: History/Biography.

Literary goodies under the cut... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
Title: Lord Edgeware Dies
No Thinking Please, We're American: Thirteen at Dinner
Publication Date: 1933
Detective:
Poirot.
Hastings?
Yes
Milestones: None to speak of.
Trickiness level: Medium-high

This is Lord Edgeware. And in a very few moments, he will die.
--
Poirot (David Suchet), A&E TV promo

Right, so conformity or tidiness or something compelled me to start off with the first Poirot novel, but no way I'm going to keep that up for the duration. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd may be one of the most brilliant mystery novels ever, but it's almost exclusively for reasons that it would not at all be cricket to discuss open forum. Besides that, we get into stuff like the justly-obscure Murder on the Links, and there are French maidens with heaving bosoms and Hastings falling in love (that these two concepts aren't simoultaneous should give you some idea of the level of unintentional camp we're dealing with here), and just...no.

So, on to the fun stuff. I adore Lord Edgeware Dies, I really do. It's urbane and fast-paced and just generally packed full of all the deliciously over-the-top possibilities of a Roaring-Twenties-themed mystery story, wherein both author and reader can crib directly from Entertainment Weekly - or I suppose it would've been The Tatler back then - without guilt.

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (peanuts afraid)
[returns from checking Statcounter re: latest entry, looking slightly dazed]

So I guess I really am pretty much alone in this Bob & Ray obsession, huh? People insist on having exciting and interesting lives instead of hanging off my every post, eh?

Well, OK then. I will deal with this in a manner not unreminiscent of the greats of literature; all will become grist for my creative mill...Hey, it's either this or the youngest Shoesis' ongoing love life, a serial in umpty-squillion parts, tickets on sale now at a vaudeville stage near you. The rest of the family keeps urging me to write it up, claiming that it's my ticket to becoming the next Danielle Steel; unfortunately, I'm not yet convinced that even Steel fans would buy into it.

I could also put together a nice little comic setpiece about how Shoemom and I gave up cable this past spring because we were effectively only paying for a few channels...only for the growing realisation to dawn that those channels had a deep-rooted, integral part in our lives. For instance, it's pretty tough to be home sick and not have TreehouseTV for company. (Seriously...I'm not alone in this, right? When you're feeling exhausted and miserable, the soft cheery hum of preschool cartoonage is perfectly pitched to distract and amuse. Right? C'mon, guys? Bueller?)

There was also the thing where Shoemom got all misty-eyed reminiscing about 'sitting down to a cup of coffee and the Weather Network in the morning' but, anyway, long story short. We've decided to allow ourselves to be lured back by deep discounts, also the sheer ridiculous good nature of the twentysomethings who man the services desk at our local Rogers Communications.
These are the same people who charmed us into switching Net providers in their favour not long ago, and they remain just as smart and - the clincher - realistic about their products. This is such a sure ticket to my heart, the demonstration of concern for my needs as opposed to their bottom line, that I am really, really glad more customer service types haven't twigged to the concept. Shoe Central doesn't have that much space available.

...So the point of all this - no, really, go back and check - actually has its roots in the last post but one, in which I mentioned one of my favourite books...come to think of it, I'd been pondering the concept some while before that, back when I was ranting about fandom as a symptom of overexposure.
 

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
Title: The Mysterious Affair At Styles
Duh, We're Americans: No alternate title. Which is kind of surprising; you'd think an edition of The Mysterious Thing That Happened In an English Country House Called Styles, Which is a Habit the English Have, of Naming Their Country Houses would be kicking around somewhere. (No, I'm not a fan of the common publishing practice of retitling overseas imports. If you don't want to think about the title, what business have you reading the book anyway?)
Publication Date: 1920
Detective:
Poirot.
Hastings?
Yes. In a rare moment of actually being necessary to the plot.
Milestones: First novel Christie ever published; first appearance of Poirot
Trickiness level: Medium

Interesting thing, this concept of 'stock' characters. When you think about it in terms of human nature, how largely static it is to begin with, a certain whiff of off-the-shelf is bound to creep into even the most dedicatedly naturalistic novelist's output. The more I think about the literary process, the more I wonder if real originality may not involve inventing new modes of behaviour so much as finding clever things to do with the existing ones.
Agatha Christie, a novelist if not strictly speaking a purveyor of literature, was clever like that. She knew very well she was using types; and she played their very familiarity for all she was worth, using reader assumptions for and against them with the calm subtlety of real intelligence.

Read more... )
shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
So I was thinking about this Agatha Christie post thing - I do that from time to time, thinking - and decided that I wasn't going to work my way systematically through the entire canon, a la fuzzy little Bully the Wodehouse-obsessed blogging bull. Just because others have heroically blazed the trail doesn't mean I have to follow them down it, say I. If it means not having to go in-depth on the likes of Elephants Can Remember or The Big Four, I am all for standing off admiring from a distance.

(Truth in blogging: The Big Four isn't all that bad a book. Just - well, sort of stupid, in that particularly quaint 'pre-WWII spy thriller' sort of way that some find totally endearing but which drives me straight up a tree.)

At any rate. What I decided to do, in the end - ie, once I discovered a workable spoiler script, thus eliminating my last hope of procrastinating further - was a series of light 'appreciations' of Christies I have known and loved, or at least liked quite a bit. The perspective of the Christie-reader-on-the-street, if you like. A grab-bag of review, comment, reference and snark.

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shoebox_dw: (pbs zebra reading)
Every mystery fan operates off a set of ground rules, in re: what they want from their ideal thriller. There are so many ways to lay out a puzzle, in so many combinations, that it's nearly impossible even to browse the 'Suspense' shelves of the local library without boundaries.

Mine are pretty straightforward: I like the classic stuff. Fair clues and fascinating suspects leading to a satisfyingly logical solution; rather like an old-fashioned garden maze. Years of nurturing my fanhood on an aunt's Nero Wolfe collection has left me with a fundamental appreciation for the well-turned, economical scene, also the leavening of humour. Characterisation is important, and I will sacrifice clarity of plot to it to a certain extent, but Byzantine literary flourishes can be dispensed with thanks much all the same. Especially if the author is British.

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