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text 2020-05-18 18:03
DNF @ 30% (approx).
A Judgement In Stone - Ruth Rendell,Carole Hayman

"Illiterate" (read: dyslexic) working class home help kills her well-meaning but utterly clueless upper class employers.  The end.  (And because it's an inverted mystery, we know literally from the first sentence that this is going to happen.)  Aaaannnd ... I'm out.

 

I'm not merely bored, though.

 

Chiefly, I'm furious at Rendell for deliberately framing dyslexia:

 

(1) as a class issue (which it patently is not and never has been), and

(2) what is infinitely worse, as the trigger that causes a psychopath who is secretly morbidly ashamed of her lack of literacy to fatally lash out at others.

 

Shame on you, Baroness.  You ought to have known better.

 

Let no part of the blame fall on Carole Hayman, however, whose spirited reading made me give this book way more of my time than I should have.

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review 2020-04-18 20:47
This was unexpected
True Grit - Donna Tartt,Charles Portis

The essay by Donna Tartt at the end is worth a read. 

 

I would never have picked up this book on my own, so thank you, Lillelara, for suggesting it. I love Mattie Ross, and found the ending of this book quite touching, indeed.

 

People love to talk. They love to slander you if you have any substance. They say I love nothing but money and the Presbyterian Church and that is why I never married. They think everybody is dying to get married. It is true that I love my church and my bank. What is wrong with that? I will tell you a secret. Those same people talk mighty nice when they come in to get a crop loan or beg a mortgage extension! I never had the time to get married but it is nobody’s business if I am married or not married. I care nothing for what they say. I would marry an ugly baboon if I wanted to and make him cashier. I never had the time to fool with it. A woman with brains and a frank tongue and one sleeve pinned up and an invalid mother to care for is at some disadvantage, although I will say I could have had two or three old untidy men around here who had their eyes fastened on my bank. No, thank you! It might surprise you to know their names

 

I'm not sure if it is worth tracking down the newest adaptation, because I don't want to watch a movie that focuses on Rooster - he's the supporting character here. It's Mattie Ross who is the star. She is an epic character in the way that Jane Eyre or Scout Finch are epic - a unique voice that can carry a story as effortlessly as if it were a feather. She jumps off the page.

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text 2020-04-18 19:54
Reading progress update: I've read 75%.
True Grit - Donna Tartt,Charles Portis

I'm thoroughly enjoying Mattie Ross - she is a unique, engaging and forthright character. This book is just full of life:

 

"I will go further and say all cats are wicked, though often useful. Who has not seen Satan in their sly faces? Some preachers will say, well, that is superstitious “claptrap.” My answer is this: Preacher, go to your Bible and read Luke 8: 26-33"

 

"He said, “The killer has flown to the Territory and is now on the scout there.” “This is what I heard.” “He will find plenty of his own stamp there,” said he. “Birds of a feather. It is a sink of crime. Not a day goes by but there comes some new report of a farmer bludgeoned, a wife outraged, or a blameless traveler set upon and cut down in a sanguinary ambuscade. The civilizing arts of commerce do not flourish there.”
 
Sanguinary ambuscade? I wish people still talked like that...
 
29% - This exchange between Mattie & LeBoeuf (LaBeef) made me laugh out loud. Mattie is a pistol.
 
“I suppose that is you.
 
Well, if in four months I could not find Tom Chaney with a mark on his face like banished Cain I would not undertake to advise others how to do it.”
 
“A saucy manner does not go down with me.”
 
“I will not be bullied.”
 
He stood up and said, “Earlier tonight I gave some thought to stealing a kiss from you, though you are very young, and sick and unattractive to boot, but now I am of a mind to give you five or six good licks with my belt.”
 
“One would be as unpleasant as the other,” I replied. “Put a hand on me and you will answer for it. You are from Texas and ignorant of our ways but the good people of Arkansas do not go easy on men who abuse women and children.”
 
Saucy is an understatement. She's a pistol.
 
66%
 
“You do not think much of me, do you, Cogburn?” (LaBoeuf)
 
“I don’t think about you at all when your mouth is closed.” (Cogburn)
 
Hahahaha
 
There's also a section of direct and cross-examination of Rooster Cogburn towards the beginning of the book that is delightful, and could potentially be used as part of a law school class on trial practice it's so well done.
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text 2020-04-18 17:02
Reading progress update: I've read 10%.
True Grit - Donna Tartt,Charles Portis

I decided to take a bit of a head start yesterday to check the lay of the land, so to speak, since this is definitely not my usual genre. I didn't get very far, but it's not a very long book, and it pretty much hooked me from the beginning.

 

Like Mike, I already like Mattie so much. Her narration is both tough and naive and her voice is extremely distinctive. I find her believable, when I put her in her proper context. I haven't met Rooster Cogburn yet.

 

True Grit, and John Wayne Westerns in general, had a lot of air play in my childhood home, so I know I have seen it and probably more than once. I'm not sure if I remember it or not - it's possible that scenes will trigger my memories depending on the faithfulness of the adaptation.

 

Anyway, I'm going to settle in and read for a while. It's rainy here today, and is a perfect day to spend puttering.

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review 2020-04-13 15:15
Et in Arcadia ego.
Scales of Justice - Ngaio Marsh
Scales of Justice - Ngaio Marsh,Philip Franks

Scales of Justice is a book from the middle segment of Ngaio Marsh's Inspector Alleyn series and a superb example of the "serpent [even] in Paradise" type of Golden Age mysteries.  Marsh goes to great lengths to establish the book's seemingly idyllic rural setting, beginning with its name, Swevenings (which we learn translates as "dream(s)"), and introducing us to it through the eyes of the village nurse, who looks down on the village from a nearby hill and imagines it as a picture map, which she eventually really does persuade someone to draw for her, and which the book's print editions duly supply in turn.

 

Yet, we very soon learn that all is not well in the Garden of Eden, and what superficially only seems like a petty squabble among neighbors, such as they may occur in any village, soon turns out to be a harbinger of much greater evil.  It doesn't take long to emerge that when the local squire -- a retired, formerly high-ranking diplomat -- dies (of natural causes), with what seems like a version of Pascal's wager and the word "Vic" on his lips, he is not, after all, belatedly asking for the local vicar to be called to administer the Last Rites.  And by the time a murder does occur not too much later, the village air is brimming with suspects and motives aplenty.

 

But to me, the book's real significance doesn't lie in its reprisal of one of the Golden Age mystery formulas successfully established in the interwar years as such ("et in Arcadia ego"), complete with rural charms and plenty of quirky characters (and cats!), but, rather, in what it has to say about that Britain in the years immediately prior to WWII -- and when it says so.  Scales of Justice was first published in 1955, just about a decade after the end of WWII; at a time when most of the world, and certainly Britain (and of course Germany) was still reeling from the effects of the war, and people were anything but willing to confront the causes of that war and take a close look at their own societies in the years leading up to it.  (In fact, in Germany the 1950s are now infamous for having produced a whole barrage of overly idyllic, kitsch as kitsch can movies dripping with the cloying, simplistic sweetness of clichéd romance and perfect Alpine scenery straight from the front cover of a high gloss travel brochure -- all in response to the viewing public's desire to blunt out the memory of the war years and evade any reflection on how the Nazi regime and the catastrophe it wrought could ever have happened in the first place.)  And while today we take it as a given that the Blackshirts and their ilk are a proper topic for discussion, in books and otherwise, I don't get the sense that this was a given in 1950s' fiction, particularly not in (ostensibly light) genre fiction such as this.  Yet, here the topic is front and center: kudos to Ms. Marsh for having the guts to give it this sort of exposure at the time when she chose to do so, and also for not falling into the trap of an overly convenient solution to the mystery into the bargain.

 

Linguistically and as far as the characters are concerned, too, this is Marsh at the top of her game: Her (professionally trained) painter's eye makes it easy for her to create the Swevenings setting in the eyes of her readers' minds in turn, and her ear for dialogue and experience as a director on the classical (Shakespearean) stage allows her to establish character with just a few well-crafted strokes of her writer's pen.  The book's imagery, from the setting, names ("Edie Puss" indeed ...), and the titular double-entendre (which is expressly referenced in the book) to the cunning old trout that seems to be at the heart of so much of the village squabble is always spot-on and frequently tongue in cheek.  Alleyn -- for once only accompanied by Inspector ("Br'er") Fox, not also by his wife, painter Agatha Troy -- is in fine form and, thanks to his customary focus on the physical evidence and the timeline of events, quickly able to distinguish the material and the immaterial.  My favorite characters are, of course, the representatives of the local feline element; in particular one Ms. Thomasina Twitchett.  The book is not burdened by any of Marsh's shortcomings (such as anti-gay prejudice and a sorrowful lack of knowledge of organized crime, which didn't stop her from writing about it on occasion).  Instead, it is a superb example of Marsh's writing at its best -- human society and behavior acutely observed and both incisively and empathetically rendered, balancing just the right amounts of humor, scorn and dispassionate analysis, and a crackingly fiendish mystery to go with it all.

 

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