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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

As I get ready for a group presentation on Lord of the Flies, I am reminded of the Simpsons episode Das Bus...

For the ISU this year, we have to read a novel by a modern day author, followed by lovely essays and more presentations. I'm stuck. It's a shame the 1930s don't count as recent...
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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Jane Poirot
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Post by Jane Poirot »

My parents think I'm a masochist. Why? Because I (out of my own free will, and this is NOT a book I have to read for English or any subject; I just want to) recently bought a copy of The Inferno and The Divine Comedy . My parents had to study it in college and found it impossible. When I insisted it's no harder than reading Shakespeare, mom joked about "that baby we found on the sidewalk".
Anyone who thinks Canadians are meek and mild-mannered has obviously never seen us during Question Period!

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

I have an awful prejudice against modern-day literature, perhaps because the ones I've read seem to always have problems with them, and have thus turned me off modern books in general. But one of the few modern books I can stomach (and I actually admire it quite a bit) is The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Mitch Albom uses simple language to get his message across, and what comes is a powerfully emotional work- and it's a whacking good story to boot.

There was a TV movie based on it a while back, and it was surprisingly good- it got the novel's themes, ideas, and story across excellently, and had an excellent cast, from Jon Voight to Jeff Daniels.

At any rate, since the book for my English ISU positively MUST be recent (I'm getting no leeway whatsoever), I've been rereading that book as well as reading another of Albom's, For One More Day (which, so far, has been excellent), hoping for enough material for an ISU essay...
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

With only one class' worth of homework (thank an essay and a test for that), I managed to breeze through the rest of Albom's For One More Day. This has the misfortune of being preceded by The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and I'm afraid comparisons are almost inevitable. And while it's a good book, it's got a few problems. The story is great, and so is the idea behind it all- but it's executed piece by piece in small segments, quickly skipping back and forth about a timeline. The result is a series of vignettes, which hasn't got nearly as much cumulative impact as it could've.

Still a good book, but it doesn't hold a candle to the earlier book.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

My teacher is offering me the option of taking a book that was written a while ago (say 30s-50s) and contrast it with a recent book, which is good news.

On another note, I just started reading Animal Farm for another school assignment. Very good so far!
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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Post by go_leafs_nation »

I love the essays of G.K. Chesterton. They're not particularly long, but the wisdom in it is incredible, and it's delightfully fun to read. Spotting the paradoxes alone is enjoyable.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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MissScarletDidntDoIt
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Post by MissScarletDidntDoIt »

Found a graphic novel of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Links. It was a fun read, though as the story had to be so simplified for the format, the story kind of jumps from point to point to point and everything seems more like rising action than having a clear climax. It was a great find though, and there's other Christie graphic novels that I'll be on the lookout for in the library. As far as I know, there isn't an adaption of And Then There Were None, which is strange.
Last edited by MissScarletDidntDoIt on Mon Apr 26, 2010 4:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by CluedoKid »

MissScarletDidntDoIt wrote:As far as I know, there isn't an adaption of And Then There Were None, which is strange.
Actually, there is. I own it as well.

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Adam106
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Post by Adam106 »

I really want an AC graphic novel.

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Post by Jane Poirot »

I just finished reading Animal Farm ...in one day. It was just THAT good. I've done a lot of studying on the Russian Revolution and its aftermath, and I kept drawing parallels between the book and the real-life historical events. Even if I didn't know this was deliberate on the author's part, you don't have to look far to see the similarities if you've read up on your Russian history.
Anyone who thinks Canadians are meek and mild-mannered has obviously never seen us during Question Period!

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Post by go_leafs_nation »

When I have to do housework or some other boring task, I love listening to a good audiobook. I recently started listening to the Nero Wolfe novels this way, and have been highly entertained.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

I was in the basement today, rummaging around boxes of books, in search of an omnibus of detective stories that I had stashed away somewhere. That's when I came across Stephen King's It.

I have no idea why we even have that book. My parents definitely never read it (my mom hates horror, and my dad doesn't read in English for fun-- they don't know where it came from, either), but we've had it for ages. I remember being eight or so, and while looking through bookshelves, I was really frightened by the cover, which features a malevolent clown (I've always found them kinda creepy)...

But anyways, I recently discovered that Tim Curry played the clown (or whatever It is) in a movie adaptation of the book. This somewhat interested me, and after coming across the book today, I looked up stuff about the plot. I gotta say, it sounds like one of King's more twisted books.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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Michael
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Post by Michael »

It's one of King's best books. I couldn't put it down. It's very engrossing. And truly scary! I'd love to read it again, but it is very very long.
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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

I feel the need for a bit of a rant at the moment. In my Eng Lit class, I've been subjected to the biggest literary snobbery I've witnessed in a long time. My prof is a nice person, sure, but at the same time, everything must have some deeper meaning to it and so on and so forth. Otherwise, it's not literature.

I find such a point of view somewhat naive and snobbish. Shouldn't the main consideration be how well the thing is written? But no, if the author has Something Relevant to Say, that automatically means the book is well-written. That's just wrong. (It works the other way, too. Just because something's well-written, it does not mean that there's any deeper meaning to it whatsoever. Finding deeper meaning in Poe's The Purloined Letter is laughable- the story is an exercise in deduction and logic, nothing more. It's beautifully written, but that doesn't mean that Poe was commenting on the chaotic nature of life.)

I'm particularly upset because of the short story collection we read. It's not very well-written at all, and the author's characters are all either grumps, total idiots (one woman can't even close a door by herself-- and by that, I don't mean she's physically incapable, she's just an idiot), whiners, self-indulging little pigs, and so forth. In the final story, the author engages in shameless self-promotion by having two characters discuss a fictional short story collection written by their fictional son, which he makes clear is the book you're reading now. (They do nothing but praise its themes and characters.)

The tales range from incoherent to revolting. In one story, a boy prostitutes himself to fellow classmate in exchange for stamps. (Why???) This same boy, a few stories and ten years later, is whining about how he's still a virgin. You just want to smack the little bugger through a wall.

Oh sure, the author has plenty of stuff to say- he'd just do readers a huge favour by seeing a psychiatrist instead of writing.

The book is one of the very few that have made me nauseous while reading it. Not even The Catcher in the Rye or Twilight had that effect.

I have made a bit of a surprising discovery. I never really liked Harry Potter, and I put down the 3rd book in the series after a few pages, but I grabbed the first book from off a shelf over the weekend and read some random pages here and there. I've gained some appreciation for J.K. Rowling. I still don't like the books or the character (just not my cuppa tea, I guess-- that whole thing with the troll in book 1 is extremely silly), but she's a pretty literate author. She doesn't fall into purple prose, and her handling of the language is (generally) wonderful.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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Jane Poirot
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Post by Jane Poirot »

Naive and snobbish, you say? And you've never gone through a period where you acted such a way yourself?

Also, glad to hear you're getting more appreciate of JK Rowling. The troll thing does seem silly at first, but it works in uniting the trio and creating the bonds of friendship between them.
Anyone who thinks Canadians are meek and mild-mannered has obviously never seen us during Question Period!

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

My main concern has always been about how a book's written. Themes and so forth can follow suit, if they are indeed present. If it's well-written, looking deeper into it is more easy and enjoyable. Some books, like The Time Machine or 1984, are unbelievably deep, and can spawn some excellent discussions. Others, like the work of John D*ckson Carr (my favourite mystery author) or Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, are excellently written but pretty light on themes.

My problem, basically, is being explicitly told that something must have deeper meaning or it cannot be true literature.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

I'm currently reading Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler. It's my first attempt in goodness-knows-how-long (it's been years) at reading a modern mystery novel. It's actually surprisingly good. It's got excellent elements of horror and history, and the mystery is excellent as well, with one particular problem standing out-- the impossible disappearance of a hooded figure from a theatre's rooftop, minutes after (apparently) walking through a wall and frightening a chorus girl in a locked bathroom!
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

Kristev
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Post by Kristev »

Well, I've been rather busy. Over the last eight months, I've been entirely absorbed with writing a new book. I just finished it.

I've decided I refuse to self-publish ever again. So what do I do next? Pay an editor, find an agent? Any ideas.

And by the way, it's nice to be back.

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

go_leafs_nation wrote:I'm currently reading Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler. It's my first attempt in goodness-knows-how-long (it's been years) at reading a modern mystery novel. It's actually surprisingly good. It's got excellent elements of horror and history, and the mystery is excellent as well, with one particular problem standing out-- the impossible disappearance of a hooded figure from a theatre's rooftop, minutes after (apparently) walking through a wall and frightening a chorus girl in a locked bathroom!
The ending to Full Dark House was a tremendous disappointment. I highly recommend about the first 90%, but the ending was a cheap cop-out that didn't really try to explain the most interesting parts of the problem, such as how the phantom got into the locked bathroom.

But I liked Fowler enough to give him another go. His second book, The Water Room, is very different from Full Dark House. The case is almost ordinary. It simply involves the drowning of an elderly woman at home (although everything else in the house is bone-dry), and Fowler tries too hard, insisting the crime was far more impossible than it really couild've been. Like the predecessor, it's a bloody book, but it's not as interesting a scenario as the first one. It lacks supernatural phantoms, Bengal tigers, serial killer vampires, or any of the things that make other Bryant and May novels so surreal. It gets less ordinary as time tramps on, but it's never as interesting a scenario as the one in Full Dark House. Ironically, its conclusion is excellent, pulling off an original motive and a semi-astonishing culprit. The book's only huge flaw is that it takes too much time to analyze two female characters who are extremely annoying.

I'm currently reading another Fowler, Ten Second Staircase, and so far, it's a treat. A serial killer is stalking London, dressing up as a highwayman, complete with mask, cape, gloves, boots, and occasionally a black stallion. He's murdering disreputable minor celebrities, and the tabloids make him into a hero. This has some really creative impossible scenarios. The first one involves him murdering an artist (whose work was extremely controversial), by throwing her into the tank of her own display. The tank was extremely high, however, so in order to accomplish this, he would've had to be extremely tall. Conveniently, there is an eyewitness: a schoolboy declares he saw a man riding a horse come in, lift her up, and drop her into the tank. The problem? Nobody saw a thing, and the number of tickets purchased matched when a head count was made. Nobody gets into the gallery without a ticket, so somehow, the highwayman had to make himself and his horse invisible at will! The highwayman then strikes again, murdering someone inside a high-tech security gymnasium, seemingly passing through the walls in order to electrocute a man exercising privately. Just now, he has struck again, but witnesses place him at the scenes of two crimes just minutes apart-- how could he have been in two places at the same time? (There is a second mystery involving the Leicester Square Vampire murders that Bryant and May failed to solve years earlier.)

Although I have a track record of disliking most modern-day mysteries, Christopher Fowler's novels show some real imagination and cheerfully dismiss any critic who complains that something like this just wouldn't happen. They might not always play 100% fair, but they are a lot of fun to read, and that says a lot.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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go_leafs_nation
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Post by go_leafs_nation »

Well, I finished Ten Second Staircase. My reaction to the solution, and to the book overall, is a bit of a toss-up.

The book comes with several impossible scenarios. The most satisfying one is where the Highwayman seems to melt into thin air, right in the path of schoolboys leaving their school. If you can accept one thing as fact, the solution is a pretty d@mn good one.

However, two brilliant impossible set-ups are ruined in the process. I don't want to spoil anything, but it's just so horribly simple. It's not a case of me gloating "But of course, I realized the significance of the bowl of cherries and the uprooted daffodils, while keeping in mind that the goat looked slightly like a panda!" This is just mind-numbingly simple. It's the first answer that comes to mind, and it's cheerfully discarded because there's no way the author would resort to such a cop out. [Sigh]

And yet, despite my problems with this solution, it does not leave an unpleasant aftertaste of dissatisfaction. I like the idea for the solution, and it twists reader expectations craftily in one or two instances.

That being said, there are some distinctly unsatisfying touches to the secondary mystery, involving the unsolved Leicester Square Vampire murders. Fowler can't get his story straight, for starters, alternately telling the reader the attacks began in the 40s or in the 70s. None of his miraculous escapades, mentioned in connection with the Highwayman, are ever explained. The attacks of the 40s are never resolved, and while there might be an implied explanation, the book never bothers to clearly explain, which makes it very unsatisfying.

Is it too much to ask for 10-20 pages of overly lengthy characterization to be devoted instead to development of the mystery and its explanation? Fowler's conclusions in Full Dark House and here were both highly rushed, and skipped over puzzling aspects of the plot without providing a hint of explanation. (He took his time with The Water Room, but that had the least interesting set-up of the three.) While I'm certain Eng Lit profs would have a blast analyzing the metaphors, I don't think mysteries should be prioritize analysis of the detective's psyche, the flaws of society, and the meaning of life. (I say leave that to philosophers and psychologists analyzing the work of philosophers.) That being said, Fowler spends far more time on an interesting story than his fellow writers, and that makes his intelligently-written books a much appreciated breath of fresh air. I was surprised that he didn't overanalyze one of the central characters, an agoraphobic, to death-- phobias usually mean a primary target for psychoanalysis.

Fowler does create a wonderful staircase motif, which gives the book its title. It's a lovely metaphor and not particularly intrusive.

Overall, there's plenty of promise, but in the end, the book suffers heavily from flaws that stem mainly from its hurried conclusion.
The two women exchanged the kind of glance women use when no knife is handy.
~Ellery Queen
At the Scene of the Crime

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