Shakespeare talked about the ages of man, and it’s well known that age seems to revert us to our youth. The last handful of years that’s been true for me with regard to mystery authors. For the first time in many decades I’m reading (or rather re-reading) Dorothy L. Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), Rex Stout (Nero Wolfe), and others from my past.
This month I’ve been enjoying Agatha Christie and her Hercule Poirot novels. I got into them after finishing a collection of 51 short stories starring her famous Belgian detective (with his “egg-shaped head” and giant mustaches). Reading those put me in the mood to revisit the novels.
And I must say I’ve been thoroughly enjoying them!
The post’s title is something of a misnomer (as there has been little, if any, science fiction for me this month), but I have an absolute and abiding affection for alliteration. (Which explains Sci-Fi Saturday, Mystery Monday, TV Tuesday, and Wednesday Wow.) I couldn’t resist the title once it popped into my mind.
Seriously, about the only SF in September was opening and shelving a box of books. But since October will be so political, I want to clear some notes. Call it a Fall Clearance — Low, Low Prices! — Everything Must Go!
Some rake their lawn of fallen leaves. For me, it’s that pile of notes that I seem unable to ever fully vanquish.
Originally 95 cents each!
In a post six years ago I mentioned that I’d finally gotten around to unpacking a box of books that had been sitting in a closet since I moved into the place. The problem I always have when I move (aside from all the book packing) is shelf space. I prefer the kind of shelves mounted on the wall, so I have to recreate shelf space every time.
Not that my memory for what I mentioned in a post six years ago is sharp. Or even exists. I noticed the post had some views recently, so I re-read it. The line caught my eye because last week I opened the last unopened box of books.
And I found some old science fiction friends!
I actively try to avoid “the buzz” — for most definitions of the word (“beer buzz” is a whole other thing than I’m talking about here). I mean the buzz of current memes and all the popular things I’m supposed to think, feel, and be. As I’ve said before, I’m deliberately allergic to trendy — I refuse to swim in the main stream.
That applies especially to the books, TV shows, or movies, that I’m supposed to see. I’m even more resistant to things I’m supposed to either hate or love. (I still have never seen ET — never will.) I generally don’t read or watch reviews until after I’ve read or watched what they review.
Which brings me to Axiom’s End (2020) a debut novel by Lindsay Ellis.
I recently read Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel (2013) by Virginia Morell, correspondent for Science and contributor to National Geographic, Smithsonian, and other publications. She’s author of several books including Wildlife Wars (2001), which she co-authored with Richard Leakey.
Morell takes us on a tour of current research into the minds of animals, starting with ants and working up through various species to our primate relatives. Dear to my heart, she reserves the last chapter for our best friends, dogs.
I found it a wonderful exploration with some real eye-openers.
There are many kinds of “comfort food” we resort to, from actual food — pizza always seemed a good choice in my view — to all the other distractions we use to give ourselves a bit of relief from the stresses of life. (Of course, that sort of thing can become addictive, but that’s another topic.)
Books have been a life-long escape to joy for me. Some are educational, and I love learning new things, but I think the best escape comes from fiction, and especially those fictions with long-running characters — people one comes to know. Sherlock Holmes, for example, is someone I’ve known for over 50 years.
And so are Hercule Poirot and Perry Mason.
I feel like a jilted lover. Or a very disappointed one. I found what seemed a delightful bit of science fiction color in an otherwise increasingly grey and dismal world. I let myself get attached (despite a few alarm bells going off in my head). I thought I’d found something truly worthwhile — something to invest myself in.
And it seemed really good at first. There was all the excitement of exploring something new and interesting. But after that great start, there came a most unwelcome left turn into a stinking swamp I want no part of.
This isn’t a Sci-Fi Saturday post or a TV Tuesday post… this is a spleen vent.
I just finished Time Travel: A History (2016) by science historian and author James Gleick. The New York Times Book Review, Anthony Doerr described it as, “A fascinating mash-up of philosophy, literary criticism, physics and cultural observation.” I agree with that description minus the word fascinating. I would have said tedious.
This is not the book’s fault. I’m not saying it’s bad. There was nothing I disagreed with. There were even a few parts I got into. The problem is I found it ambling, rambling, and meandering. It wasn’t incoherent, but it seemed disconnected to me.
Overall I found it easy to put down and hard to pick back up.
A few weeks ago a friend loaned me The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (2016), by Mark Manson. I just finished it, and — while I’m not a big fan of self-help books — I give this one an Ah! rating. Manson’s approach, contrary to our modern norm, is not about finding happiness, but about choosing the pain worth seeking (and letting the happiness come through our fulfillment).
The subtle part is that not giving a f*ck doesn’t mean one stops caring. The subtle part is learning to be selective about what matters to us.
The counterintuitive part is that chasing happiness leads to misery.
For this Mystery Monday I want to tell you about a great American writer whose name you might not know: Elmore Leonard (1925–2013). As with Philip K. Dick, another great American writer, it’s quite possible you’ve seen a movie based on his work without realizing it. In fact, Elmore Leonard gives Stephen King a run for the money when it comes to works adapted to film.
Two of my very favorite films, Get Shorty (1995) and Jackie Brown (1997), are adaptations of Leonard’s novels. The former is the second film that restarted John Travolta’s career, and many believe the success of the film greatly depends on the source material (I quite agree).
If you like crime fiction, you definitely want to get into Elmore Leonard.