« September 2012 | Main | November 2012 »

The Great Christie Read 2012: Peril at End House

This is not one of my favorites, but the idea of it is super. And it made a good TV movie. 

It's hard to explain why a person can like this book but still think it isn't very good. I guess it's just that Agatha Christie makes you believe in what she's doing. 

The problem isn't plot holes. If you look up this book you'll find people just didn't understand some of it. And well, that's more of a problem, but the real trouble is that most of these people just aren't likeable, and they aren't even really intended to be. I kinda feel like she was trying to say something; a message, about the Bright Young Things in 1932, perhaps. 

Redemption in the end is slight. But let me know if you've read it or seen it and don't understand about the hat or watches. I can explain them to you.

Here's the cover of a 1945 edition.


NaNoWriMo actual serious thoughts

Three people have led me, this week, to the realization that I must start taking my writing more seriously. That is not to say I intend to take myself anymore seriously, because people who do that are dreadfully boring. But I know I write well, and I want to write well for others; giving them something to enjoy and maybe even cherish. 

I do not mean to say I am talented in the literary sense. I don't know if I can be, but that is mostly for others to judge. I write like I sing, though with more technical skill. I do not have a beautiful or powerful voice, but people enjoy the way I put over a song, and find my singing pleasant. 

So, the three people. One of them did some research and found that I could have a similar lovely typing experience that I enjoy on the family iMac if I invested in a new Chromebook. You see, my evening typing is confined to an old Dell laptop. This might sound luxurious, daytime machine and nighttime machine, but the nighttime machine makes me weep with mourning for my old terrible Powerbook. I like an Apple keyboard, and I like Apple software. 

But the new Samsung keyboard will have a similar feel, and I won't have to tear my hair out wending my way through the ugliness of Windows software and clunkiness of the Dell keyboard.

He said, "An artist needs proper tools." I like that. We use what we have, to create beauty. But when we can invest in better brushes and canvasses, it is wise to do so.

The second person said, "Write a children's story.  Children see magic in the world and create meaning from it. And everyone likes a good children's story." 

That's true. Everything a child sees is bigger and more magical and wonderful because they see it with newer eyes and a more roomy heart. I'm not sure I could write a good children's story, at least, of any significant length, but I will be keeping this in mind as I write the story I am organizing for November.

The third person is my seventh grade Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Juanita Grayum. The first two conversations brought her to mind, and I am so glad they did. If Google has things right for me, she is still alive and living in Arkansas, at the age of 92. Mrs. Grayum taught me to avoid helper verbs, and she also taught me a few things about dignity, drinking lots of good water, the importance of breakfast, about strong narration, and about seeing more literature in life than is written in the Great Books. I've never forgotten her or our conversations after class.

Informally, at least, I am dedicating this effort to her. She did a lot with her life, and I aim to do much more with mine, starting right now. 

12 - 1 (2)

The Great Christie Read 2012: Sad Cypress

Sad Cypress is another Poirot story, though, like Miss Marple in Moving Finger, he's brought in later in the story by a concerned party who thinks outside counsel is needed to set things straight. 

It was published in 1940, and it's kind of a melancholy story. In certain respects it's more formulaic than the others I've mentioned so far, as a setting is created, tension develops, a crime is committed. The difference is, the accused is known from the beginning, and the story unfolds to show events leading up to the trial. Sound familiar? This is how Dorothy L. Sayers set up Strong Poison, and the similarities don't end there. Strong Poison is a better book, in truth, because it has more guts to it, but Sad Cypress is fairly gripping, and it has that enjoyable characteristic of making you feel you are collecting clues all the way through, except that the mind of Poirot is required in order to put them together correctly. While it isn't one of Agatha Christie's best books, even her "average" ones are enjoyable and well worth reading.

Two fun things to know: first, the character who brings Poirot into the picture is Dr Peter Lord, and that is definitely a cheeky nod to the Sayers story featuring Lord Peter Wimsey, and second, the 2003 Poirot adaptation of this story is actually pretty good, and faithful to the original. This cannot be said of all of them...

Here's a fun cover from 1951. It has a clue on it! Screen Shot 2012-10-21 at 11.25.17 AM


Did you know...

that you are not required to sign into anything in order to comment on my blog? That is because I do not like having to sign in everywhere I go on the web, or to just say, "Good job, Bob!"

It's very simple to remove rare comments which are less than authentic or pleasant, after all. 

I can tell people cruise by and look, and I appreciate that, but I would doubly appreciate more heys and hellos and Good Job, Bobs! Even a sweet little +1 would be super, and I have now set that up for your convenience!

The Great Christie Read 2012: The A.B.C. Murders

This is a remarkable book for several reasons, among which are that it foreshadows at least three other books, and mentions events from another earlier one. One foreshadowing is basically a very simple rewrite of the story itself. Not to say improved...each has a different personality, so they aren't quite comparable side by side. Nonetheless, nearly identical murder motive, with similar clues leading to the solution. 

It's intriguing because it does not quite follow the general story pattern that Agatha Christie herself invented. I will not say more about that other than it is very important to the enjoyment of the tale, and that, as is often the case, things are not as they appear to be.

This is a Hercule Poirot adventure from the very first page, and features one of Agatha Christie's favorite elements, the train. And if you are paying attention, you learn some very important truths about Monsieur Poirot in the first chapter of the story. 

The A.B.C. Murders, first published in 1936, is a little longer than some of the others; in order to have about the same number of pages, my edition has smaller than usual print. But check out the first U.S. edition!


The Great Christie Read 2012: The Moving Finger

It's time to launch The Great Christie Read 2012. I do this every couple of years. I was going to be all completionist as usual, and start with the first book,The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but as I get older, I become more laid back about that kind of thing. So I'm being a bit serendipitous with it, reading pre-WW2 and then post, just pulling a book from the shelf and going with it. Tonight, for the first book, I pulled out The Moving Finger.  

The Moving Finger was published over 20 years into Agatha Christie's career, in 1942, and features Miss Marple in a supporting role. It's written in first person in the voice of recuperating war pilot Jerry Burton, and I enjoy subvocalizing it as I imagine his voice. I first read this one probably between 1976-1978, and it's still one of my favorites. 

If you've seen a screen adaptation of this book, you might like to know that they are usually significantly altered from the original material. It's easy to understand why; they like to build in a bit of romance onscreen, and also need to conflate material into a short span of time. But I like how this book somehow roams through the telling of a story, yet remains tightly on schedule. Christie was good at that. 

With some of my GCR entries, I'll be more descriptive about the book itself (and I will cover all of them this time, Anna,) but for this one, I'll just offer one of my favorite covers for it, which was printed in 1961. Screen Shot 2012-10-19 at 9.13.18 AM


A Suggestion to the Public

Dear Fellow Anderson Township Ohio Post Office Patrons:

I understand. Even in your community, which seems to have hardly batted an eye at "these tough economic times," things just seem more wearisome these days. The greyness of the cloudy morning doesn't help. And none of us enjoys standing in line at the post office. Well, I kinda do, but I'm a little odd…

Anyway. This is just my opinion, but I've found that when I must go out and do these tiresome little tasks, it helps to enter into the spirit of the thing by making sure I present a positive face to the world.

I'm not speaking of acting happier than you actually are, although they say that's not a bad way to improve your mood. I'm speaking of more simple acts such as putting on a different shirt or blouse than the one you wore all weekend, maybe splashing a bit of water over your face. Possibly, you might reach even farther within and muster the energy to comb your hair. 

These little "necessities," as we used to call them, can take you several steps farther toward feeling good about yourself and the day stretching in front of you. You might feel a bit more like smiling when the postal worker greets you cheerily or a fellow patron nods you ahead of her in line because she is still taping up the box she's brought to mail. 

No one is asking that your clothes match or fit, that your shoes be generally clean, or that you actually acknowledge others as they exit the building while you enter; those are all relics of a time long past, much like, sadly, the post office itself. 

These are just a few basics to consider in the realm of personal hygiene, which might make the difference between feeling oppressed by clouds or looking for a ray of sunshine peeking through them. 

High 5 over 50?

EW, I'm not linking, go find it if you want, had this thing, um, "hotties" over 55. They were okay. But not my thing. I might add Joe Mantegna, as I don't think his wonky eye would bother me much. 

Anyway. Here's my better list. (And really. If you had to set aside every man with a slightly wonky eye, you'd miss a lot of good territory.)

5 TV Guys Who May Offer Me Their AARP Discount.

John Slattery, age 50. 
Screen Shot 2012-10-05 at 9.47.30 AM

Aiden Quinn, age 53
Screen Shot 2012-10-05 at 11.15.07 AM

Brian Williams, age 53

Thomas Gibson, age 50

Craig Ferguson, age 50