Only the Dead by Vidar Sundstol, Minnesota Trilogy 2, puts me in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior, a place I will be heading to this summer. No sooner have I begun this book than I’m reminded of the last book with a moral conundrum: “ This knowledge has transformed Lance into a corrupt police officer who is protecting a family member from the law.” (p 37) By the time we learn this, we know this, or at least should be suspecting it. Two brother hunters in Ojibwe country in Minnesota on Lake Superior is the setting. Murder becomes the focus as we often see in stories of brothers, guns, and hunting. This is a slow methodical hunt as the brothers navigate the truth, wrestle with their consciences as Indian spirits provide the impetus for action. The November hunt for deer and a solution top the moral conundrum conflicts with a curious backstory and an incredible ice storm. Now I need to find Minnesota Trilogy 1 and wait for 3.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
How to be Both by Ali Smith is an adventure in being here and there, alive and dead, as George navigates the recent death of her mother. Yes, ‘her’ mother is dead. Yes, George is a girl. Maybe being both starts in a name. “This will be the first year her mother hasn’t been alive since the year her mother was born. That is so obvious that it is stupid even to think it and yet terrible that you can’t not think of it. Both at once.” (P 4) This is a story of a girl remembering her recently deceased mother and the trip they took to Italy and fell in love with a painting by an obscure painter. In a fact more was known about the subject of the painting than the painter. This is a novel about the mother, the girl, and the painter. George is constantly reminding herself, “Not says. Said.” And she is a stickler for proper grammar, always. After her mother’s death, Georgia, that’s right that’s her other name, sees a therapist, Mrs. Rock, who is confusing George/Georgia even more as Mrs. Rock introduces mystery and the exploration of said word that will continue next Tuesday. Then we are transported back in time to when the painter painted the painting. Then it is his story and we discover the key about how to do both.
A moral conundrum is how to be both.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Bridge by Robert Thomas is a tale of wonder, the mind, and a rabbit hole we go in with a girl named Alice. This book is loaded with great insight into the human mind as viewed through a patient in a psycho ward in SF. “That’s the worst isn’t it? To take the one thing someone does well, the one wildflower that barely survives in the shadow of their mountain of mediocrities, and tell them that’s it, that’s what I hate about you.” P 49 Alice chats with us, though she tells us she hates chatting, about everything as if we are her shrink. It’s cool and scary. “And I wanted David to have sex with me in the stairwell so I wouldn’t have to let him into my apartment. I could go in alone and flop on the couch and wait until I had the baby. Give birth to some Don or, yes Donna who one day would look at herself in the mirror and realize she was like … me. And so I stopped talking to David.” p 72 Alice has quite the fantasy and quite the story that seeps out slowly, like blood from a cut. We get images of a struggling woman who has trouble just going to work and then her fantasy takes over from there and we are not sure if some of her actions are real or not. That is the point here, not knowing what is real and what is not. It made me stop and think and just look around. “That’s why people travel: to change identities. “ p80
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The Chessmen by Peter May returns me to my Scottish roots via Inspector Fin Macleod on the Outer Hebrides that involve the Lewis chessmen. Last time we saw Fin was after he solved a case in his hometown, Uig on Lewis. He had been a detective in Edinburgh and the case brought him home when he retired after that case. He also discovers a son he didn’t know he had from his high school sweetheart. They are now living together. His retired life finds him as head of security for an estate that wants him to rid it of poachers. One of the poachers is an old friend from high school, Whistler. Whistler is a genius but lives like tramp in a croft. Fin and Whistler discover the plane of a rock star who died seventeen years earlier when a bog burst, that is drained and left a huge hole with the plane. Upon first look, Fin determines the pilot was murdered and that the plane didn’t crash. Once a cop always a cop.
Berserker rooks, people going berserk, and simply following the berserker is enough to make one go berserk. It has to be the peat. Anyway, a suicide note begins and ends our tale, a priest has saved his daughter and granddaughter by breaking the sixth commandment and put his job on the line, and Fin is settling into life with a second family. Oh and his past comes back again and provides the drama for the day.
Fin is looking at his Aunt’s derelict house, the one he grew up in after his parents died in a car crash when he was very young: “As he frequently did, he wondered what point there was in it all. Were we really just here to procreate and pass on, leaving our seed upon the earth to do as we had done, as our fathers had done before us, and theirs before them? A meaningless cycle of birth, life, death?” (page 128) What brings this on has to be the death of Roddy who was the main guy in a band in which Fin was a roadie. Once again the past returns and becomes the present, bringing the surviving band members and others back on stage for one more act: to find the murderer of Roddy seventeen years ago. Another common bond for these lads is the famous Iolaire disaster. The survivors’ kin now people the towns. They are all linked by the few who saved a few more when so many died after surviving WWI, just yards from home. These grandchildren of the survivors are again in a situation that could bring another tragic event to the town’s doorstep.
Stay clear of the Bridge to Nowhere is the message for me. How many Bridges to Nowhere are there.
What we have here is the continuation of a beautiful relationship between Fin the retired cop, and the protégé, George Gunn. Keep ‘em coming Mr. May.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Shark by Will Self follows Umbrella and is the second in the trilogy. Self takes starting in the middle of things to an extreme; as this novel begins with a lower case letter and in the middle of a sentence and ends pretty much the same way. Then the roller coaster ride, nurse sharks, through prose forests, verbal valleys, rhyming rivers, and subtle and blatant innuendos very reminiscent of Virginia Wolff begins. Just as in life, there are no stops, here, we just keep on going, The reader rests at self chosen points and picks up by overlapping and then getting back in the race. She came in through the bathroom window; in the outskirts of Northern London we encounter drugs, whores, misfits, and Dickensian folk in all their glory. I love the rawness of the writing. The vivid images are, loan sharks, tantalizingly voyeuristic, sadistic, bizarre, outlandish, impish, compelling, seductive. The transitions from one addled brain to the next is murky at best in this Tourette’s ravaged novel. An LSD induced kaleidoscope of contrary images, similar images, images dripping, flowing, blending into the next and then morphing into another until finally my eyes are tired and I keep going because there aren’t natural stops, paragraphs, chapters, parts to this one long sentence, circling sharks, of 466 pages. It’s magical. God is within me and therefore I am my own master. A Hellerian treatment of World War II on one hand and then a Carlinian acid trip exposé of a day in the life of. Chores be damned. Eating? Not now. I can’t put this book down. Claude, a spotter for the Enola Gay crew when the bomb was dropped is suffering from that event. His anguish spills over into today: “Pouting a small cloud, Michael thinks, The most substantial thing about me is the smoke… And then: It doesn’t matter whether the lunatic American was on the A-bomb mission or not, the coincidence of the two of us, here, now is …paralyzing.” (page 308) Jump the Shark. The vets sit around Lincoln Houses waiting for the next meal watching Jaws and reliving the war. Always in search of that next smoke.
Friday, February 13, 2015
The Final Recollections of Charles Dickens by Thomas Hauser seemed a good continuation of the literary list of books I’ve been reading. This is a great primer for anyone looking to come up to speed on Dickens and how he in his youth came to understand the plight of the common man and then to write about that situation so magnificently and so effectively. Dickens’ work is very responsible for many social changes in London and beyond. Hauser has jettisoned us away to young Dickens’ world and we see him learning, observing, recording, and doing something about the poor living and working and schooling conditions of the common man. Oh and it is a fun story woven here for us, especially us so taken by the man, the writer Charles Dickens. It’s fiction, it’s fantasy but about a real man. His early work as a reporter allows him that access and that platform to publish and this is how he begins writing his sketches.
A clever example showing us how Dickens may have acquired his knowledge happens when he and his wife, Catherine, are invited to Geoffrey Wingate’s house for dinner. The dinner conversation becomes electric with talk of class, the divide between rich and poor, and finally how the host’s wife, Amanda, and Dickens agree against the rest in a bordering on contentious discussion. However, many of Dickens’ future characters and ideas emerge in this discussion.
The real treat for me and this book is the purported love affair he has with Amanda, “worthy of love.”
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz was a logical next book choice after the last read that revolved muchly about Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty is Holmes arch enemy. I just love these spinoffs from the classics. The dismantling of the Reichenbach Falls hoax is brilliant and let’s us pick up where Watson left off. Like Iago.
After Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton introduces himself as our narrator we are given some of the particulars of the tale that has three men going up to the Falls, Holmes, Moriarty, and Moran, a sharpshooter/assassin who works for Moriarty. One body found, apparently Moriarty’s since authorities don’t know about Moran, it isn’t Holmes, so Moriarty is the logical choice, except for the fact that no one knows what he looks like. Chase joins up with a Scotland Yard Detective, Athelney Jones.
We are suddenly thrown into a tale with all the characters from a Sherlock Holmes adventure except Holmes and Watson and of course Mrs. Hudson. A Yank and A Brit team up to foil American gangsters, using the American Legation as cover, trying to take over the evil criminal vacuum left by Moriarty’s death. The new guys are more vicious and more brutal. The two detectives are cutting through this ncase like a hot knife through butter. Are we seeing the birth of a new super detective duo soon to be followed by a sequel?
A page or two before Chapter Twenty-One grab a brandy. Just as with Iago, this book is about Moriarty, after all it is what’s written on the cover of the book.
Monday, February 9, 2015
The Forgers by Bradford Morrow begins with a gruesome murder of a forger, Adam. His hands have been severed and taken. Books and such, both real and fake were destroyed. He pissed someone off. His sister, Meghan, who owns a bookstore dates a man, Will, who is also a forger. Will receives threatening letters and then is arrested. Someone is stalking book forgers. Our hero is blackmailed again, this time by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I do love these literary oriented books as we are tiptoeing through a garden of authors and their works as we traverse the world of book forgery and selling. The blackmailing comes again and this time after liquidating everything the couple move to Dublin where Meghan was born and now becomes pregnant. They are now living in Dublin and the blackmailer, Mr. Slader, may be back. An interesting fact about forgers is that they become counterfeit themselves as people.
A notion, an idea comes during the ballet between victim and foe, Will and Slader, think of making it public intrigues and scares our combatants. Public is always the way to go. It’s simple, gather from the primaries and then publish a primary to be peer reviewed and passed on. Now as in passed on, this story speaks volumes to the thesis of publishing for the sole purpose of preserving said work for the future and so the soul of one generation passes on to the next. Now I’m still not sure what “it” is. Calligraphy is a beautiful art and should be learned when young to be of value.
Friday, February 6, 2015
The High Divide by Lin Enger caught my eye since I just came back from a wonderful trip that found me crisscrossing the Continental Divide for two and a half months.
Talk about ripping off Homer. This two part novel is our classic Greek story, war and wandering. In this story the father, Ulysses, is a soldier in two campaigns, the Civil War and the Indian Wars with Custer and the Seventh. The mother, Greta, is a recent Danish immigrant who meets Ulysses in her travels west to St Paul. They meet and have two boys. After a decade or so, Wanderlust kicks in and dad disappears with only a beaded satchel. The satchel belonged to a family of Indians he killed when serving with Custer. He wants to return the satchel to Magpie the father of the family he killed. Father shares this with his two sons and continues the journey to find Magpie in the high plains of the high divide of Montana. Forbidding lands to make peace with another father with one of your sons. An interesting character we meet is a curator from the new Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. A history lesson about buffalo and Indians from a Smithsonian POV.
Father on a quest. The sons on a quest. Even mom leaves on her own quest just to get out of town and to get away from the local letch. After much juggling and adjusting the confluence may begin.
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Inside a Silver Box by Walter Mosley is a fanciful tale of life and death and how the two intermingle, cooperate, and rise to another level. This ain’t an Easy Rawlins adventure, it is a whimsical metaphor masterfully written by Mr Walter Mosley.
A white female jogger, Lorraine, is murdered by a young wayward black man, Ronnie in Central Park. This is where the story takes a different turn from the one we may expect. Some time in the past, we don’t know exactly but over the spot where Ronnie murdered Lorraine a battle royal over the galaxies ended here with the burial of those battling forces of good and evil. Ronnie goes back and resurrects Lorraine because he has come in contact with these ancient forces. Now the duo is battling those higher life and death forces together. A fanciful metaphor from the genius, Mosley.
As we all go down some “Rabbit Hole” Super powers are given to Lorraine and Ronnie via blindness that leads to super human running skills for Lore and to joint stiffness that leads to super human strength and stature for Ronnie. In this new world of the supernatural they fight evil. Our dynamic duo is in constant “pay attention” mode because s/he never knows when which character kicks in at which time. “Who am I” kicks whenever and we have a kind of situation; the superhero or the perp and victim. Saving the world is tough work, but it’s gots ta get done. Besides what other kind of fantasy can you tell cops when they rouse you awake in Central Park all naked and such?
Monday, February 2, 2015
Second Life by Paul Griner is a macabre tale about the second life of us. After we die, we can be harvested. That is what Elena; our heroine did before she was busted. Now she is at it again, sort of. She is trying to find a friend who may or may not have died and may be on blocks for harvesting. Weird book for me to be reading as I am sashayed around the autopsy room in the first chapter and reading about the process of harvesting. December 8 wasn’t that long ago.
The business of harvesting human bodies is a strange one. It certainly brings to mind horror films of hooded individuals robbing graves at night for some crazy scientist. The sex is even macabre and ghoulish. Definitely a fun dark book to read on a dark dank day in the winter, not a warm sunny beach. Here is a character’s description of the business of harvesting: “He frowned. You know what I mean. Migrant labor in a foreign country, the ones no one pays attention to or wants to know about. That’s what we are, with corpses. Migrants in the land of the dead.”
This is a tale of former friends who fall apart and then death brings them together again one last time so everyone can have a proper second life.