Monday, December 28, 2009

In-Between Week Notes

OK, I've been bad this month. Very, very bad. I'm so sorry. Work was busy, and I had the holidays creeping up. I've been more than usually unprepared for them this year, and the dreaded DC Snowpocalypse ended up postponing my yearly holiday party till after the New Year. But, for whatever reason, it's been hard for me to concentrate on my blog-related reading.

I have read some good books this month, few of which really qualify for this blog. Calvin Trillin's ALICE, LET'S EAT, for instance, which is fun food writing but hardly D&C material. OK, I admit, good D&Cers appreciate good food and good booze, but still.

Another good book was closer, Jeff Vandermeer's FINCH. I read that to review for Amazon, and it had one of the best reviews I've ever written. FINCH is more fantasy/sci-fi, really, but is fairly close to D&C material. It's basically a hard-boiled police procedural mystery, only in a fantasy city, Ambergris, the setting of some other Vandermeer works. In this, Ambergris has been invaded by Grey Caps, fungoid beings from beneath the earth, and the city is under occupation, and Finch (not his real name) is a detective assigned to investigate a mysterious death. It leads him into all directions, delving into resistance movements, spies from other city-states, petty criminals, and any number of other elements. It's sometimes rather disturbing in its depiction of a fellow detective whose body is being slowly taken over by fungus, or the descriptions of things like boats and buildings that give suspiciously under the narrator's feet and hands. It's like something from Cronenberg, circa NAKED LUNCH or VIDEODROME. A great read, and you don't need to read his other Ambergris stuff to understand it.

And, a personal milestone for me, I finally got through a Dickens work, an audio version of A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Breaking it up into bite-sized bits over a couple of months actually made it halfway palatable. And just when I was finishing it up, I found out about an interesting-sounding novel, A FAR BETTER REST by Susanne Alleyn, that's basically TALE from Sidney Carton's point of view, and giving a more historically accurate view of the French Revolution and the Terror. And REST turned out to be actually a lot of fun, with loads of good historical detail and also pleasing in its treatment of Sidney Carton, TALE's tragic antihero (because, let's face it, the "official" romantic heroes, Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette, are dull as ditchwater), who's given real psychological depth and reasons for doing the things he does. REST also delves into an issue that Dickens never addressed...why do Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay look alike?

Also, it turns out Alleyn has a mystery series set in Revolution-era Paris, which I should delve into. That could be fun.

Finally, on Christmas Day, my sister and her husband took me out to see SHERLOCK HOLMES. Now, I had misgivings about it, to be honest...I like Robert Downey Jr. a lot, but as Holmes? Jude Law as Watson? Well, I have to admit...there were some aspects of it I didn't like much, but overall I did find it an entertaining film. The story involves black magic and Dan-Brown-ish conspiracies involving a Freemason analogue, but it did have an appropriately Holmesian conclusion. Rachel McAdams was a pretty good Irene Adler, although I'd love to see Carole Nelson Douglas' version of Adler brought to the big screen at some point. It has some respect for the source material, unlike Laurie King's "Mary Sue" version of the Holmes canon (as you can guess, I dislike her works intensely), and does address an aspect of Holmes that is frequently overlooked: his physicality. While brilliant mentally, Holmes was also an excellent boxer (according to Watson) and could more than hold his own in a fight. Still, sometimes I wasn't entirely comfortable with the Ritchie/Downey beefcake Holmes, especially when they sexed him up a bit with broad hints of an on-and-off affair with Adler. But it's never dull, the plot is comprehensible, if a bit overly baroque (then again, the same was sometimes said of Doyle), and visually interesting. It's also a kissing cousin to Pitof's VIDOCQ, which I need to write about someday, as that flick was one of the things that got me moving to create this blog.

What's coming up? I've got the week off, but I'm looking into enhancing the wardrobe and doing some other things. Not sure yet what I'm doing for New Year's, and if the weather's ugly I may just stay home. I know, sounds pathetic, but I'd rather stay home than risk my neck on slippery streets. I've got a lot to read, including some more Wakefield stories, so stay tuned.

And just for the heck of it, here's a recent shot of my parents' cat, Lobo, snoozing in his favorite spot. This oughtta bring in the cute kitty lovers.

1 comment:

Susanne Alleyn said...

Thanks for your nice comments about A Far Better Rest. I hope you enjoy my mystery series as well, and I look forward to revisiting your blog.

AFBR is finally going to be reissued in paperback sometime during the next year--I've just signed the contracts! (Tell your friends!) ;-)

VERY cute cat. I'm always a sucker for kitty photos.