Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hail & Farewell

Robert Parker, author of the Spenser series, died this week at the age of 77. He will be missed by all mystery aficionados.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Some years ago the city of New York - and most of the reading public - was astonished by the details surrounding the deaths of two reclusive brothers who lived in a deteriorating mansion on New York’s Fifth Avenue. I remember reading the stories and pictures about the mystery of their lives. Despite a fortune and the social milieu into which they were born the two, upon the death of their parents, became gradually ever more reclusive and eccentric.

Over the years, the strange story has been told, retold - often fictionalized - in books, articles and TV. Much has been fictionalized in ‘Homer & Langley’ but the basic facts of the Collyer story remain. The author attempts to reconstruct the blind and dependent Homer’s passivity and acceptance of his brother’s increasingly bizarre behavior by inhabiting his head. He becomes the character, describing in a very matter of fact way, the downward spiral of their lives, the increasing isolation of both. While Homer questions some aspects of his brother's actions, he accepts and often approves of them. Events that could be termed dramatic are recounted in the same calm and passive voice. At some point, the reader too inhabits Homer’s mind as the book spirals into a claustrophobic ending.

H & L held my attention till the end and led me to check the story on Wikipedia. There you will read details of the Collyers’ life that are even more bizarre than those in the book. It’s obvious that many more books & screenplays can work off their true story.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

An interesting thought. When I was a child, my mother had 3 phrases she used fairly consistently - You've always got your nose in a book, You don't hear a word I say when you've got your nose in a book (heh-heh) and the real coup de gras was ... it's a waste of money - buying you a book - yuu read it in one day! Can you even imagine today's mother saying that?

And add this - in 10th grade English at Nottingham High School (Syracuse NY) we were assigned to read a chapter a day in The Crisis - a book about the Civil War. I loved that book and proceeded to read the whole thing. Alas - the weekly quiz betrayed me. The teacher was really quite annoyed and told me that I was not to 'read ahead' - just that chapter per week. I solved the problem by finishing the book & going back to review the damn weekly chapter the day before the quiz.

Can you imagine an English teacher saying that today? Ha! And what was it with English teacher's names. The Crisis teacher was Theodosia Moran. My next year's English teacher was Frederica Smith. She & I got along famously because she knew I loved reading - & also writing term papers!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Christmas brought a deluge of books. I scored big with B & N bargain books. I got The Help; Alice Munro's-The View From Castle Rock; Christina Kline's- The Way Life Should Be; Lauren Groff's- The Monsters of Templeton; E.L. Doctorow's- Homer & Langley. I got 3 paperbacks - all mysteries - Aaron Elkins, Ruth Rendell & Deborah Crombie.

Dwight got the bio of Andrew Jackson, plus Too Big to Fail (about the economy - not GM) & Richard Dawkins The Greatest Show On Earth - The Evidence for Evolution. And he still has his B&N card to spend!

Interesting - the number of authors incorporating fact into fiction these days. Doctorow has apparently been doing it for ages & this is true of Munro's book as well. It's nothing new though - Alan Eckert - did it with his American History novels for many years. He called them 'narrative history' and they had volumes of foot notes which were worth reading by themselves!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This was a book lovers Christmas - I think about 12-13 between the 2 of us. As I finish them you'll see comments here - slowly because I read magazines & the computer during the day - and books at night before I turn out the light.