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Writing with surprising grace, despite my bulk…

Lately I have been noticing an annoying trend among otherwise wonderful writers. I’m going to start collecting them, but I am currently reading two books (one audio, one Kindle), and both have gone there, and that’s when it struck me that … EVERYone goes there.

Barbara Hambly, Good Man Friday: “Henri…danced also, with surprising grace for a man of his bulk.”

George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones: “He moved with surprising delicacy for such a massive man.” That’s about Magister Illyrio. And about the man Arya follows: “Grossly fat, yet he seemed to walk lightly”. But wait – I did a search, and there’s more: Ser Jorah: “Deftly, with a delicacy surprising in such a big man” – AND: Sandor Clegane: “With a delicacy surprising in such a big man”…

See, here’s the thing. In my life right now, the person with the heaviest stride (“You walk like an elephant!”) is a little athletic wisp of a thing. Me? I could almost make two of her, and you’re never gonna hear me coming. And, thinking about it, I don’t think any of the large or obese people I’ve ever known have been particularly heavy-footed, or graceless, or whatever. Nobody shook the ground when they walked. Nobody routinely knocked over furniture. Nobody ever squashed a child or dented the floor.

Here’s a thought … maybe because someone is large, or fat, or both, it doesn’t mean they’re clumsy. Maybe all these fictional narrators should stop being so damned surprised at large people’s grace or deftness.

Or at least they could find a new way to express their surprise.

No, they just need to stop it.

For fun, I just went to Google Books and typed “surprisingly graceful for bulk” into the search window. There are “about 5,170 results”. Now, glancing through, some are duplicates, and some of the quotes are about animals, and one is about a cathedral – but… “He is always elegantly dressed, surprisingly graceful for his bulk.” “Pug’s graceful dancing, despite his bulk”. “Then she unfolded, surprisingly graceful given her prodigious bulk”. “For all of his bulk, he was surprisingly graceful.” “And did so in a surprisingly graceful motion for all of his bulk.” “Surprisingly graceful and light on his feet despite his bulk.” “With a surprising fleetness of foot, considering his bulk.” “For such a big man he was surprisingly graceful.”

That’s the first couple of pages of the search.

So, basically, not only is it a bit of a regularly occurring smack in the face to anyone who is, as they say, bulky, but … Come on, people. Over five thousand results for almost the same wording – and that’s only one variation on the phrasing. This goes beyond cliché.

Stop it. Seriously, everyone, stop it.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2015 in books

 

Happy Liza Doolittle Day, everyone!

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in books

 

How about some Authors Behaving Goodly?

A few days ago there was a post on Goodreads collecting examples of Authors Behaving VERY Badly. So I feel a sudden need to illustrate the flip side of that coin, the authors we love, even if we didn’t like their books; the gracious, the generous, the positively cuddly. The exemplars. The ones who Do It Right. Come and plug your favorites – let’s give the good guys some attention. For a change.

Here are mine, garnered from nearly seven years of reviewing, in mostly alphabetical order, except for a few obvious shows of favoritism.

First on my list has to – always – be Adam Schell . He was the first author who ever responded to a review of mine, and thus began a friendship I value highly. I even met him once. Go read Tomato Rhapsody (hey, it’s available on Kindle now! Yay). It’s a wonderful book by a warm, funny, pretty wonderful fella. Hail Don Adamo.

Next on my list has to be Mary Lawrence, whom I have been delighted to get to know, and whose Bianca Goddard series (starting with The Alchemist’s Daughter in April is going to be terrific. I can’t say “hail”, here … Yay Mary!

Patricia Burroughs , aka Pooks, responded to my reviews of other books, and although I usually dislike unsolicited review requests and am always suspicious of them, she Did It Right: I received This Crumbling Pageant, and read it, and oh lord never did write up my review where did that paper go God I hope it shows up in the move otherwise I will reread the book I swear… *ahem* Gracious and fun to mutually follow: Hail Pooks.

Another author – with whom I have recently, and happily, become friends on Goodreads – whose books I fell head over heels in love with is David Blixt . A friend request and acceptance turned into a really enjoyable discussion, and I hope for more. Hail David.

Apart from the comment from Don Adamo, above (and maybe the one from the bassist for the Red Hot Chilli Pipers), the comments that have made me fangurl the hardest have been a handful from one of my very favorite writers in the known universe, Susan Dexter . I’ve known her books since, probably, shortly after the first one came out in 1981, so I almost fell out of my chair when she responded to my reviews. Go read Susan Dexter. All of her.

And of course Nenia Campbell, and more of course N.E. White, and most of course Jane Steen, with whom I’m proud to be friends!

Bill Allen – another author whose YA book (How To Slay a Dragon) was a Netgalley find – also left a short and sweet comment.

Laura VanArendonk Baugh , whose Kitsune-tsuki I received from LibraryThing, left a gracious and welcome comment on my review.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending of Annie Bellet’s A Heart in Sun and Shadow – I loved the writing, but didn’t realize it was the middle of a trilogy. I respected the book itself, a great deal – and respected the author even more when she responded to my probably rather petulant review with a very moderate comment.

James R. Benn , whose A Mortal Terror was something completely different I loved from Netgalley, also left a fun little note on my blog.

Paul Collis also Did It Right, skirting any objections I could possibly have against an unsolicited review request. He thought I might like his book, The Scottish Movie, and he was right.

Then there’s Ann Littlewood , whose Threatened and Endangered was a Netgalley offering which I really enjoyed (and which I have to follow up very soon – I quickly picked up a few others in the series); she left a brief and sweet thank-you here on my blog.

Cindy Lynn Speer loved that I loved her The Chocolatier’s Wife, also received from LibraryThing, and I loved hearing from her. I need to read more by her as well.

I need to read more by everyone on this list.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2015 in books

 

Leonard Nimoy is gone.

Never forgotten.

I have no more words.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in books

 

How authors would like to be reviewed

So, there was just another brouhaha on Goodreads and its environs. And I swore I would keep my hands to myself and not take part.

I lied.

It seems to have blown over, at least where I’ve been able to see, and I’m not about to stir it all up again, so I will name no names and tag no tags. The poor silly author person has gotten a bit beaten up, and while I still want to speak my piece somewhere it won’t get deleted I don’t want to beat a beaten horse. So to speak.

It seems to have all begun with someone’s first book, which I just saw was, oddly, self-published back in September. But apparently as of a little while ago the book was saddled with a very long, very poorly written description on GR, and a few people took that as a sure and certain sign that this was a book to avoid. Some of them (or at least one, though some “reviews” have been deleted by GR) evidently took the description apart line by line – and from what I’m seeing, it was indeed pretty bad. And pretty long.

The first I heard of it, though, was when a friend (hi, Jane!) wrote a blog post about a blog post by the author. (So now I’m writing a blog post about a blog post about a blog post. Funny old world.) The author’s blog post – and in fact her whole blog – was deleted over that weekend; I think she got some serious backlash in her comments section. I kind of wish I’d saved it, but what I do have is my visceral response to it – not quite line by line, but enough.

The first thing I took issue with was the Victorian-twee capitalization of certain nouns, particularly “Writer” and “Reader” (why, that would be Me! If I ever decided to read the thing, that is.) Done with tongue in cheek, say by an Austen fan, I’m fine with this. But done with a straight face… why? I don’t understand. Are you a time traveler from Dickens’s London? Another odd quirk in the blog post was a near-constant use of “we”. I don’t know whether it was intended as a collective “we”, somehow speaking for all writers, or as a royal “we”, but either way it wasn’t a great idea.

Also not such a great idea, I suppose, was putting down my thoughts in the review section for the book on Goodreads. It was deleted, of course (after it garnered over 50 “likes” in a couple of days – and, obviously, at least one flag as against guidelines). But my points still stand, so here they are. I was pretty disgusted when I wrote it. Obviously.

The author’s part of this is not verbatim, since I didn’t save her post – but it is as close to what was actually said as possible.

The author’s blog: I wish readers would only post four- or five-star reviews, and if they have complaints they should write me directly to tell me instead of putting that in a review.

Me: If I have spent time and/or money on your precious flower of a book, and I don’t like said book, then I have every right to express my opinion – yes, even if I haven’t read the whole thing. And yes, in a legit review and not a private email to you. Unless I have been provided with a free copy for the purpose, or unless you have paid me to copyedit, it’s not my job to send you a politely worded detail of why your book isn’t the Masterpiece you think it is. If your writing is laughable, I’m sorry: I will probably laugh.

The author: People should remember that my book is the work of my heart, my baby.

Me: It’s not your baby. It’s a book.

Just to clarify – Baby:

– living creature, product of, generally, nine months’ work, in need of protection and nurture.

Book:

not, technically, a living creature, but ink on paper (or not), product of from months to years of a different sort of labor, with all of the care and nurturing required before production rather than after

A better metaphor might be raising a lion cub and releasing him into the wild. Once it’s literally out of your hands, it is completely out of your hands – if the other lions don’t like him, you can’t go wading in and shake your finger under those other lions’ noses. (Well, you can, but they will eat you alive. Which given the parallel illustrated here makes this a pretty good simile.)

The author: I feel personally injured when someone says harsh things about my book.

Me: A mediocre or bad review is not, unless you are personally attacked in it, an attack on you. It’s not an attack on your precious petal of a book. It’s a book review. An expression of opinion. A summation of what was enjoyed – and not enjoyed – during the reading experience. Je ne suis pas Charlie, but je suis moi: a reader, with only so much time to spend in reading and only so much money to spend on books – and with every right to express opinions. (Except on Goodreads, of course, where the original thing I wrote vanished like my coworkers two minutes before closing time.)

The author: if you’re going to dare to write a critique of my book or my book description pointing out spelling and grammar errors, you had best be certain your own spelling and grammar is impeccable.

Me: While in my reviews and blog posts I always certainly strive to make sure my spelling and grammar are correct, even if they are not I also have every right to point out places where your spelling and grammar are not up to par. Why? Because if I screw up in a review, it’s something I wrote for myself and my friends, to plunk onto my blog or on Goodreads or some such. If you screw up in a book you’ve published, it’s something you have offered for sale, for the consumption of strangers, in the expectation that time and/or money will be spent on it (as mentioned above). If you do not understand the difference here, you have no business writing for anyone but yourself. If I purchase a book, it is with the presumption that the author has performed due diligence in making it as close to a perfect thing as possible, has made noticeable effort to clean up style errors and make it worth reading. If you have not done your utmost best to ensure that simple, stupid things like grammar and spelling are not as perfect as they can be, it only shows a complete lack of respect for your “Readers”, and I have no time or patience for you.

The author (and this is a quote, because I copied and pasted it): “The only thing I am telling you right now is: Please, when writing your review, consider our feelings and sensitivity – and respect our work.”

Me: Well, to all “Writers”, the only thing I am telling you is: Please, when writing your book, consider the rights, time, and wallet of the reader – and respect us enough not to whine when we take the time to exercise our rights and give you feedback. Good, bad, or indifferent.

The author’s blog post title: “How Authors would wish their books to be reviewed”

“How Authors would wish their books to be reviewed”? How dare you.

In predicting (correctly) that my original post would be deleted, I said that I would likely copy it over onto my blog – because this whole thing just ticks me off so very much. For one thing, doesn’t she realize how this has all been said before, a thousand and six times? How are these people not getting the message?

I mean, I get it. I do. Like probably half the people on Goodreads I’ve tried my hand at writing a book. It is hard work. But I want criticism. I want to improve, and I want my work to improve. The idea of expecting universal adoration for anything I do is completely alien.

I’m not so arrogant as to think that my book will be War and Peace, or The Lord of the Rings – and even if it somehow did manage to be kind of super, there are people who dislike War and Peace and The Lord of the Rings. And you know? That’s okay. (Except for the people who dislike The Lord of the Rings; they’re just wrong, of course.)

As I mentioned, I got a lot of support for the post. And then I got this, from someone calling himself JR:

Boy… You’ve got a lot of time on your hands.
I agree with your freedom of opinion statement, and to be fully transparent here, I haven’t finished reading the book yet nor have I read the author’s blog.
Like you and the rest of the commenters on here, I am a big believer in freedom of expression.
But it seems to me before you stomp a new author into the ground, you ought to take a step back, take a deep breath and follow some of your own advice.
I don’t respect your hatemongering way.
It’s oppressive and goes against what you say you believe in.
I don’t think it makes me trust in your opinion as a reviewer – and that is my opinion.
Now you are free to rip me apart in a personal way. I hope it makes you sleep better at night.

I admit- I kind of did want to rip him apart. But that goes against the grain. So I checked the commenter’s profile page, and wrote what seemed reasonable.

Thanks for your comment, I guess. Joined in January 2015, eh? So, JR is a pseudonym? (Mind, this is not a personal attack any more than my commentary above is, but merely observation. Not that I expect you to agree with that.)(ETA, also: zero friends, zero books, no avatar = did you think no one would notice?)

It didn’t take all that long to write what I wrote, thanks for your … concern? I type pretty quickly. I have no desire to stomp a new author into the ground. I am more than happy to live and let live. But I also don’t suffer foolishness gladly, and the oft-heard plaint of “I-worked-so-hard-give-me-five-stars” is pure foolishness. And not even original foolishness. I’m not sure where you’re getting hatemongering; please enlighten me. Are you sure it’s the word you’re looking for? “The act or practice of stirring up hatred or enmity” – I wasn’t expressing hatred, and don’t encourage it; I was expressing disgust and irritation. The author in question is not my enemy, or at least I’m not hers, and I care to fulfill the role. So – please insert Inigo Montoya quote here.

It matters little to me whether you trust my opinion as a reviewer. I don’t write reviews for anyone but myself and, perhaps, my friends (I take it you won’t be sending me a friend request either as JR or as your non-sock-puppet persona?). I’ll forget about all of this in about 46 seconds, and sleep just fine, thank you for your kind wish. I hope you sleep well yourself, having gotten this off your anonymous chest.

….

[Added the following day:] Having had a good night’s sleep: I was wrong, I did think about this longer than 46 seconds. Long enough to think about that word “hatemongering” a little bit. I don’t hate the author of this book I’ll never read, any more than I hate the coworker who routinely butchers the English language in ways that make me want to weep. “Hate” is a ridiculously strong word, and for myself I reserve it for, you know, Hitler. So, my good sockpuppet, no – I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

“He” didn’t respond. Though now that I’m thinking about it I’d bet “he” was one who threw a flag on the play, so to speak. (

Again, I’m not trying to stir up the sediment that has settled to the bottom; I don’t care enough about the author or the book to make this specific. But I really, really care about people attempting to get some kind of control over reviewers, and who can’t behave like adults and professionals.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in books

 

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Thank you, Animal Haven…

I’m not deleting my last post; the situation was what it was, and the fact that it was resolved doesn’t make what happened any easier to sleep with at night. I am, however, deleting the tag and changing the title.

Before it got better, it actually got worse. A friend of the family suggested I contact a rescue group called Halfway Home Rescue. I wrote a (looking back on it now) pitiful, seriously pathetic message to them through Facebook. No response. The friend had mentioned that they’re small, so to keep trying; this was hard, because I was getting desperate. I wrote a second time. This time, to my horror, I got an answer. Part of it:

“You [sic] dog has some very serious medical conditions that private non-profits will not be able to afford. We suggest you look for low cost veterinary care and resolve her medical conditions rather than expecting a rescue to pay. If she gets on her feet, perhaps a rescue will be able to help. When you adopt an animal, it is supposed to be for life.” I responded heatedly; it was a very bad time, is my only excuse, and I still find that reply completely heartless. At which point they wrote me back saying that I needed to act like a responsible dog owner… which was what I was trying to be. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive them for that.

However, somewhere in there Michelle from Animal Haven got in touch with me about my post on Facebook – and, thank God, she couldn’t have been kinder or more patient. She has apparently had to deal before with people facing some of the worst moments of their lives. We emailed back and forth for a few days, and then one Saturday I called her. She suggested I bring Daisy in to meet her. I came home alone. And that is a drive I don’t think I want to dwell on, ever. Michelle was again wonderfully patient as I checked in with her every now and then to see how Daisy was doing… and then on December 2 she replied that they found a place for her, with a stay-at-home mom, whose kids already adored Daisy. There was a photo posted on Facebook, of possibly the most content-looking dog I’ve ever seen.

So, while I won’t delete that earlier post … things got better. Sort of. Animal Haven turned out to be a true blessing. Michelle took immediately to Daisy, and Daisy glommed onto her enough that I don’t think she noticed when I left. And … On the one hand I don’t have to worry about her anymore. She’s happier, and I have a little more freedom to do what I need to do and also not worry about not being home, and then of course there’s the only-apartment-I-could-afford-but-which-doesn’t-take-pets. But after almost two months I’m still reluctant to get out of the car when I get home. Every day, twice a day, I would pull in to the driveway, and as soon as I got a window or door open I would hear the barking. It’s incredibly hard still to stand on a silent doorstep, and go into an empty and silent house. It’s hard to handle that silence; it took a while before I could get to sleep without music or a podcast playing, something, anything. It’s hard to have the whole bed to myself.

And that is all I’m going to say about that situation. I didn’t particularly want to write this – but I couldn’t not clear things up about Animal Haven. The person I originally spoke to there was, apparently, an aberration, or also having a very bad day. I was going to insert a picture of her here… but I’m not that sadistic.

‘Bye, my Brussels. Miss you.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2015 in family

 

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Dear Animal Haven…

Dear Animal Haven,

I’ve always had a pretty decent respect for you. Our neighbors have been involved with you forever, and after all you are a no-kill animal shelter with an excellent reputation – what’s not to love? So when I discovered Goodsearch (the web search site which raises money for a charity with every search, every game played, every online purchase) I made sure my neighbors knew about it, helped them get you signed up, and when you were established made sure that I picked you as the beneficiary of my searches. Over the last couple of years, over $650 has been raised for you; there are 72 supporters. The second strongest supporter seems to be “Angela”, who has raised $2.16 since they started keeping individual track. I’ve raised over $100.

That, Animal Haven, is over now. Because, you see, I needed *your* help recently. My life has gone pear-shaped over the past year; by the time 2015 comes along I expect nearly every single aspect of my life to be completely flipped. And part of that is that I expect to have to carry on without my dog, Daisy. There are a lot of reasons, but suffice to say it’s breaking my heart, and I have no choice. For her sake, for my sake, financially, logistically, I have no choice. That last is my mother’s phrase: no choice; I’m really tired of not having a choice. Regardless, the decision was made for me recently, and I called your number looking for help. I need to give up my dog, I said. I was upset; I think the woman who answered the call would have had to be an idiot, deaf, or a sociopath not to recognize that. But instead of offering sympathy, instead of taking any form of action to comfort or help me, with her tone of voice and choice of words made it clear that her opinion of me was slightly higher than of people who drown kittens in sacks. Your representative kicked me when I was down. I won’t forgive that, ever.

So now my searches on Goodsearch will benefit a random horse rescue I picked off the list, unless and until I find a cause with personal resonance again. I wish you luck placing the animals you deign to take in, and I wish you better luck in the employees you have in future – because that one was horrible.

‘Bye.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2014 in family

 

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Jeopardy: Represent Boston!

I never did write up my ever-so-exciting experience at the Jeopardy audition in Boston in May, did I? The hotel was a kind of miserable experience, but the rest of it was fun – especially the audition itself, of course. Jimmy from the Clue Crew (also known as one of the people with the best jobs on earth) happened to be in the area, and stopped in while we were getting our Polaroids taken, so that was exciting.

Somewhere I have the list I made of my fellow auditioners’ names. After the first audition I regretted not having made better notes about my comrades in quiz, so I tried to get everyone this time. I do need to track that down. I didn’t need it tonight, though, because – well, I missed the first segment, just got home during the first commercial break, and was puttering a little as Alex was introducing tonight’s contestants – and my head shot up when he came to the young man at the center podium, John Campbell, a romance novelist from Weymouth. Because he was one of my fellow auditioners on May 12.

It’s kind of stupid how excited I got.

And – spoiler after the picture
Screenshot - 10_15_2014 , 7_58_35 PM
– he kicked butt. I could only be happier if it was me.

Glenn, running the audition, pushed him to say what name he writes under, and he declined to answer; if I recall correctly he said “I have to hold something back for the show” – another good reason to be glad he’s coming back. I support my fellow Boston auditioners – his books? I’d buy ’em.

Go, John, go. I can now say I “know” a Jeopardy champ; let’s make it a multi-day champ.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Jeopardy!

 

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*blows dust off blog* The Attenbury Emeralds, Jill Paton Walsh

I’ll refrain from saying “I’m back” or anything like that; who knows what tomorrow will bring? My life has changed in oh, so many ways; I will also refrain from quoting “Tomorrow” in addition to “Yesterday”, and just say … topsy-turvydom does not make for good writing conditions. But I had this half-written, so…

I was pointed to an article about Jill Paton Walsh’s writing process for her DLS rip-offs – er, pastiches – – er, sequels, and it made me angry realize I hadn’t written a review of this thing.

On the phone from her home in Cambridge, the author, age 76, also said that this is likely to be her only flashback Wimsey novel. “I honestly don’t think Peter is that interesting without Harriet – the only exception being The Nine Tailors, which is such a good book it doesn’t really matter whether he’s got a consort or not.”

Not. That. Interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the person with whom the legacy resides. Does anyone have a handkerchief I might borrow, because I think I’m going to cry.

(Nota bene: I cry when I’m angry, too.)

Okay, so what is this thing? It’s a posthumous sequel, taking notes DLS made before she abandoned Peter for Dante and working them up into a complete novel.

As I was writing that sentence I had a sudden vision of this:

Despite Good Intentions, a Fresco in Spain Is Ruined

Despite Good Intentions, a Fresco in Spain Is Ruined

I remember when the first one, Thrones, Dominations, was announced – I was excited. Of course I was. (I was a little excited when I learned that there would be new Star Trek movies coming out – before I learned, the hard way, that JJ Abrams is the sort of man who likes blowing things up. Like planets. And fandoms.) I love Lord Peter Death Bredon Wimsey. But of course I wasn’t totally stupid, so I was worried, too; the online community I was part of at the time lamented that JPW wasn’t any of the people they would have chosen to try to fill DLS’s pumps. And in the end T,D wasn’t good… It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t good. I think I actually kind of liked Presumption of Death, I’ll admit it.

It’s this book that makes me think of that poor, poor fresco’s “restoration”.

I made a lot of notes as I read, to the extent that I was driven to say “It’s not a good sign that I’m compelled to make notes at almost every percent marker so far.” I wasn’t exaggerating. I won’t squish all of those down into this review; suffice to say there were a lot of problems, and my notes started to reflect a few patterns.

One was this: “This is exactly like those tv episodes they put out now and then to save money and pad out a season or for a holiday or something – what are they called, clip shows? – where you’ve got a bunch of characters sitting around and reminiscing and the screen goes wavy and voila: there’s a scene from an old episode. Only I haven’t seen this tv series. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book presented like a clip show before.”

They are called clip shows, and … this wasn’t done to save money, but … I don’t know. I’m at a loss as to why exactly this device would be used here – but watch any bad example on television, and you’ll find the similarities are uncanny. It doesn’t work in novel form.

The first, and one of the most annoying things I made note of was that this was not the story I was expecting. I guess I had read “Attenbury Emerald” and thought “Yay, the story behind the tale in The Nine Tailors.” Um. No. My bad, actually; that would be the Wilbraham Emeralds. Oops. For some reason I had my mind set that that was Peter’s first case. Hmph. All right, but still, it leaves me with a question I noted in media res: “Attenbury asked me to see to Osmanthus’s little business with the jewels.” Why? Here’s Peter, young (31), not experienced with gemstones, not an intimate of the family, certainly not a known detective and probably not particularly known for his brains, given his usual behavior – and Attenbury lets him take charge?

Something I found both sad and funny was Harriet’s I-assume-unintended (?) role in the book: what I called a preemptive audience surrogate. Several of the things that raised my eyebrows, about which I was bound to make snarky comment, were – hilariously – addressed by Harriet. ‘I observe that you have a problem familiar to novelists. A large cast list to be introduced to the audience, and no reason why they should wish to know or remember any of it until the story starts.’ (This was irritatingly true – and needed different punctuation.) ‘It was no moonstone, you mean,’ said Harriet. (Though the story was beginning to sound AWFULLY familiar.) “Unless you have been making half of this up, you have an extraordinary memory. How long ago is all this?””Thirty years….” (Always a problem when someone is supposed to be telling a story within a book, especially when it’s the story of something that happened a long time ago: when the tale-teller uses what appear to be word-for-word quotes, rather than saying what a person would actually say when telling a story, something more like “So then we wandered back to the house, and he told me about the conversation he had had with her, and I had the feeling he was hiding something when he said she wouldn’t tell him about that day”.) Time after time JPW anticipated my snarky remarks by basically inserting them into Harriet’s mouth. The question being, why didn’t she just avoid the issues in question in the first place? It wasn’t cute; it was annoying. Also annoying was that this was almost Harriet’s only role in the book: Greek chorus.

Bunter seemed out of kilter for much of the book. Not that any of the characterizations were as authentic as I’ve seen in some fan fict– not by a long mark – but Bunter in particular was as off as a haddock in the noonday sun. The rest of the characters were either unique to JPW (excepting notes from DLS which we peons haven’t seen) or felt like caricatures, but Bunter just hurt. There were grammatical errors – and Bunter would as soon appear in his boxers as abuse the English language. At one point he makes a comment about blood and guts – in front of Harriet – and doesn’t excuse himself. I can*not* see that happening.

This is going to sound elitist, or … I don’t know, I’m sure someone will manage to find it objectionable – but the reading level, or the comprehension level in the JPW books is always much lower than anything DLS wrote. As I understand it, DLS didn’t give half a flying fig whether her readers could read French – or Greek – or Latin – or could understand half the allusions she larded into her writing. She wrote it as she wanted, she did not dumb it down, and while I have been known to feel stupid while reading DLS I utterly respect her choice not to pander to the lowest common denominator. JPW… either panders, or is not able to aim higher. Which is fine; faking it would be obvious, and a huge mistake. Some of the Jane Austen sequels or *shudder* rewrites have proved exactly how disastrous it can be to invite direct comparison between the writing of one of the greats and someone trying to fill their shoes.

Not that JPW isn’t already doing so by trying to write Lord Peter novels in the first place. But perhaps it could be considered a mitigating factor that she doesn’t try to ape DLS’s style.

Some of the instances of the non-DLSness of the style:

“”The Attenbury emeralds were a parure – a complete set of jewels.”
– A) Harriet would have known that.
– B) DLS’s audience would have known that.
– C) DLS wouldn’t have given half a damn if (B) or not, she wouldn’t have explained it.”

“All the girls like pearls’, I said foolishly.” – My note: I take it this isn’t a quote from anything, which I expected it to be, but just use of the rhyme. I’ve understood most (all, I think) of the allusions and quotes so far … Which, when it’s supposed to be Lord Peter, is not a good thing. ‘But a man may smile and smile and be a villain, and all that.’ – Referenced twice. And ‘Alas, my love, you do me wrong’ forsooth.

There are some unfortunate errors or awkwardnesses sprinkled throughout the book. Example: the hideous Mrs. Duberris castigates Peter for “footling around”; only a couple of pages later, he passes a remark about going to “footle around a bit”.

Peter says ‘I thought Attenbury would bust a gasket.’ I wasn’t able to pin down an etymology for the phrase, to see if it’s period-appropriate, but to me it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t feel like something Peter would say. Just like some of what was put into Bunter’s mouth. Completely off.

Peter: “She married one of her trainers, rather late – she must have been in her mid-thirties before she tied the knot.” Er, wasn’t Harriet about that when she married Peter?

The worst, the very worst error came at about 7%. “Lord Wimsey”. Multiple offenses. My monocle popped right out.

No, actually, and in all seriousness, possibly the worst offense in the book came at about 24%. “I think, you know, it was the earliest example of that nausea you know all too well….”
‘For how long,’ said Harriet sternly, ‘did you go to bed?’

Okay, now, here too. Peter’s revulsion at sending someone to his death, yes. But pulling up a thorough rotter who deserves to serve time? I don’t buy into that troubling him. And as for Harriet being “stern” about it… No. Never.

One last quote, and then I’ll wrap this up: “To her great annoyance, Harriet felt herself blushing slightly. ‘I don’t compare with Conan Doyle, or Agatha Christie, or Dorothy Sayers,’ she said reproachfully…” This could, perhaps, be author insertion rather than audience insertion. But, sadly, the author doesn’t seem to feel that way, nor DLS’s estate.

There’s already another JPW “LPW” out. Will I read it? *sigh* Probably. But it’s starting to feel like when I was seventeen, and a new Trekkie looking for more fuel for the geeky fire, and snapped up every Star Trek novel there was. It took me years and probably fifty books to realize that the vast majority of it all was complete and utter garbage. I am beginning to be of the opinion that no one should ever be given the rights to touch another person’s toys. They tend only to break them.

 
10 Comments

Posted by on October 10, 2014 in books, mystery

 

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“Robin Williams can’t be dead.”

I’m far from the only one feeling that way.

RW RIP

(CNN) — Most of the shock that resounds after hearing that Robin Williams died Monday comes from its utter implausibility. How could Robin Williams, of all people, just stop breathing, moving and, most of all, talking?

It’s as though we’ve been told the moon spun out of orbit or that water no longer boiled, or froze, at the proper temperature. If Robin Williams is dead, then light no longer refracts, atoms no longer bond and gravity has gone out of business.

Yes. It’s that implausible.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on August 11, 2014 in memorial

 

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