It’s WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What did you recently finish reading?
While vacationing in Mexico, I visited the traveler’s library at the beachside cottages where we stayed, and exchanged a paperback for another nice fat mystery: The Blue Last by Martha Grimes. I’ve enjoyed her Richard Jury and Melrose Plant novels before, and was looking forward to more of her entertaining characters and intelligent storytelling. Unfortunately, this one meandered at length, including a very long side trip (several chapters) with Melrose to Italy that bore only a passing relation to the mystery that Jury, still in England, is trying to solve. Interestingly, the plot involved reconstructing some events from World War II related to the Enigma code-breaking that is the subject of The Imitation Game, so I was looking forward to a hinted revelation about a character who was involved in that project and who may have played a part in a war-era death related to the current mystery. Alas, after much buildup, that plot thread was dropped, and the novel abruptly ended [SPOILER ALERT] with Jury being shot and a lot of loose ends dangling. Grimes needed an editor on this one!
• What are you reading now?
Just finishing up Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice, which had been on my to-read list for a while, since I loved Gravity’s Rainbow many years ago, but couldn’t get into other novels by him. This one is partly homage to classic mystery noir, like one of my favorite films, The Big Lebowski, and like The Dude, our reluctant hero Doc Sportello is pretty much puffing on a joint for most of the novel. Pynchon’s wild imagination and exuberant zaniness has had me laughing out loud, even while his narrator manages to insert some trenchant social commentary from the viewpoint of 1970s changing culture in California. “On certain days, driving into Santa Monica was like having hallucinations without going to all the trouble of acquiring and then taking a particular drug, although some days, for sure, any drug was preferable to driving into Santa Monica.”
I wish I could find the passage about Doc trying to remember a thought scratching like a rogue chicken at the barnyard of his brain… Anyway, some of the prose nearly sends me into flashbacks of my hippie days, and it’s a fun trip.
Thor and I just watched the new film of the novel starring Joaquin Phoenix so we could compare. At first I was disappointed in the odd choice of a female voiceover narrator reciting passages from the novel that should have been Doc’s reflections, but once past that the film is a hoot. Check out both novel and film if you can “go with the flow.”
• What do you think you’ll read next?
I’m going to dive into A Mind of its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, by David M. Friedman. This one needs some context. My husband Thor Hansen teaches a hybrid Geology/English course at Western Washington University along with poet Bruce Beasley, called “Monsters.” Bruce teaches the literature of the monstrous, and Thor teaches the science. Every year he offers a special lecture, “Monstrous Sex,” so this book can be considered scholarly research. He gave me a preview of a chapter dealing with the early Christian church’s demonizing of the penis, which had been revered by earlier cultures as a source of life and strength. Apparently Christ’s penis was in a special category as pure and holy, while everyone else’s was an instrument of sin, and there was quite a business in selling fragments of Christ’s prepuce. Interesting history!
Sara’s newest from Book View Cafe was just released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.