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review 2019-09-14 17:29
Lady in the Lake - Laura Lippman
Lady in the Lake - Laura Lippman

  This is an embarrassment of riches: so much so that I am immobilized in my decision-making capacity. I'll go with whatever anyone else tells me first.


This paeon to old school newspapers and journalists was touching, nostalgic, and also thrilling. The relentless hustle to put out a daily paper helps keep the suspense high in a story that stretches out a fair bit. The crimes, the business of reporting on crimes, and how little those two might intersect is a constant theme. Really I loved pretty much everything: Madeliine and Cleo, the many different types of mothers, civil rights and equal rights, the new hairstyles and clothes and fabrics of 1966. For all that is very much a crime story, it has a bit of everything except a Tracy Turnblad musical number. The Dickens comparison still feels somewhat apt.


The only other upside to having finished it (beyond the sheer pleasure of a good story well told) is that I am reluctant to start something else right away. In an effort to keep my buzz going and not bring it down on some other kind of book entirey maybe I will accomplish some of the things I was going to do in the first half of the day "as soon as I finish this chapter..."


Library copy

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text 2019-09-11 13:30
Whitewashing the cover, denying that Black Lives Matter
Lady in the Lake - Laura Lippman

Shame on William Morrow and their jacket designer.


Lippman's story opens with the words of a very pretty young working-class African-American woman and mother of two, Cleo Sherman, addressing Madeline Schwartz. She's saying that no one except her mother missed her when she disappeared, "no one cared." She's telling us that Black Lives Matter and no one was going to look for her until Schwartz, a very pretty still youngish middle-class white woman and mother of one, made the disappearance into a big deal. Cleo's a realist who's endured racism her entire life.


So the cover designer took that symbolic second place in which Cleo lives and made it literal: the pretty white woman in front, clear enough, and the probably pretty woman of perhaps some color, perhaps just in shadow or a muted reflection, but sufficiently disguised that no potential white reader of Lippman need be put off.


It's possible that no one ever explicitly said "if you put a Black face on the cover, make it hard to tell." Publishers bemoan the lack of diversity on the grounds of giving the book-buying public what it wants, to which end any broad-appeal book jackets keep lead characters of color off the cover, or hide them in shadows, or use white or passes-for-white models. Only the books specifically marketed to a Black audience are overt. It's exactly the same bullshit cycle that segregates books marketed to everyone as gender neutral or overtly masculine, while slapping pink and ball gowns on anything that isn't expected to have cross-over appeal. Legally enforced segregation may be dead, but more kids now attend racially segregated schools than before integration, now imposed by school districting.


White readers have to keep demanding more diverse voices and more diverse characters and more diverse covers, because publishers will only change if they are shamed into it. All the minority voices raised in protest won't sway them, sad to say. It's just so easy to carry on passively in systems of institutional oppression and ignore the problem.


Lippman's novel addresses racism head on. Shame on William Morrow for undercutting her. I am taking a knee, at, I acknowledge, no cost at all to myself. Black Lives Matter. Keep saying it until the US acts like it's true.


Reading progress update: I've read 121 out of 352 pages.


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text 2019-09-06 08:03
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video 2019-07-25 11:46

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review 2019-06-10 05:25
The Baltimore Book of the Dead
The Baltimore Book of the Dead - Marion Winik

This is a terrific book, especially if you are like me and love to read the NY Times obituaries. I used to feel weird admitting that, but two things made me change my mind. 1. The NY Times still prints them, and that can't possibly be just for the friends and family. and 2. They made a documentary about the NY Times writers of those obituaries, appropriately called, Obit. But I digress, sorry. This beautifully-designed, pocket-sized edition (I know adorable is not an acceptable literary term, but still) is tempting to devour in one sitting, but I suggest you take your time. Winik does not use people's names, which I liked, (This is a follow-up to her original Glen Rock Book of the Dead, which I couldn't get a copy of in my local book store.) but I did spend some additional time trying to google to figure out who some of them were. (The Playwright, anyone?) So yes, I read it in two days instead, but really, this one is worth savoring.

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