This article made me laugh.
And then another part of me wants to proclaim that I’m not QUITE thirty – can I still be on facebook and cool? Sigh. Guess not.
P.D. James’ newest novel “The Private Patient” opens with the brilliant line:
“On November the twenty-first, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death.”
Note how James weaves together the tiniest details with the dramatic final phrase and then surreptitiously pops in there the fact of upcoming murder. I’m instantly hooked. James is one of my favorite mystery writers, not the least because of her incredible characterization and insightful glimpses into humanity. It seems every book grapples with big unresolvable issues, from what we do in the face of injustice to how we retain compassion for others in the midst of horrendous evil to the awful admission that the capability for murder hovers somewhere inside us all.
But beyond fabulous writing, what is it about mystery stories that draws us in? I think it was Dorothy Sayers who observed that mysteries provide us with a framework in which to reconcile good and evil. There is something satisfactory about seeing justice done, even in a fictional world far removed from our own. I agree. Mysteries are some of the best escapist literature, because they give a sense of order, a world wherein the clever detective (who always has enviable qualities like literary genius or exceptional taste in fine wines) remains one step ahead of the culprit and brings the truth to light.
And if, as a reader, you’re able to keep up with the detective, then you feel extraordinarily intelligent. The detectives are always brewing strong cups of coffee (which inevitably makes me think I need a cup of coffee right NOW while I’m reading) to help them work through the case. I feel part of their little circle, always sure I’m on the right track, and then I fall for the little red herrings so cunningly planted in a well-plotted mystery. My certainty of the murderer’s identity is almost immediately followed with the big “Aha!” moment, when the pieces come together, and I’m able to see what really happened. That kind of reading gives even more satisfaction and is testimony to the power of an author’s creativity.
P.D. James does this incredibly well. I’ve just finished “The Private Patient”, and I’m still kind of flushed with the energy of the concluding chapters. Now to muddle through that post-book haze, when you have to leave the world of the characters and come back to reality. Perhaps I’ll go brew a cup of coffee and join the detectives for one final consultation.
Let’s be honest, we’ve all read the daily comics and wondered how some of them are still around. I tend to think the general consensus among readers must be the same – mockworthy comics, comics that aren’t funny, comics that have the same image for three panels with a slightly different caption – no one wants to read them. We all wish the newspaper would just buck tradition, can Snoopy, Zippy, and Andy Capp and give us something actually funny or, at the very least, Calvin and Hobbes and Far Side reruns.
But I have recently realized something. People DO read those other comics. Case in point: here in Columbia, the estimable Mary Worth was cancelled and within two weeks was back in its favored spot due to reader complaints. True story – people actually wrote letters to the editor demanding the return of Mary’s insufferably boring, yet surprisingly intimate, life.
For those of you who, like me, are about to give up on the comics, I commend to you the following sites. Yes, they reference Family Circus and Garfield, comics that are categorically un-funny. But with a few modifications, I think you’ll find them worth a read. Enjoy!
It all started quite innocently. I was expecting my first son in October of 2006 and joined a forum for other moms-to-be. Thus began my foray into the realm of BFP’s and LOL’s and DH’s and all the rest. Then came Facebook. Didn’t even fight it. After being sucked in to the point where I would neurotically check Facebook updates several times a day, the novelty passed, and it has diminished and become a useful social networking tool. But this was all before I started reading other people’s blogs. Then I discovered the world of smartly written opinion pieces, social commentary, or just links to things that made me laugh. It’s like how you can’t stop eating after just one chip. There is ALWAYS something of interest out there and someone interesting writing about it. Which is why I arranged my Google Reader account yesterday. And why I started my own blog today.
I feel like I should offer a whole truckload of disclaimers here, for there is something inherently arrogant about starting a blog. There’s the normal part of self-expression, but then there’s also the assumption that someone would actually want to read my thoughts. I’ve journaled ever since I can remember, but there’s a hidden-ness to that, a protection about the secrecy. Sure, I used to daydream that people one day would read my profound reflections on seventh-period study hall, but I didn’t actually hand the journal over to my classmates. Or my teachers. Or my parents. Or any other person who might have a passing interest.
So, like it or not, I’ve made the slow march from the Luddite ranks through the baby steps of social networking…to the blog. It’s a scary world out there, fellow bloggers, but I am stepping out, throwing off the shackles of reluctance, and overcoming my unwillingness to join the conversation. Besides, I have a book to promote. Try to ignore the inconsistency. I have difficulty admitting I’m confident enough to post my thoughts on-line for everyone to read, but I have no problem thrusting a whole novel on anyone who will listen and saying, “Read it! Read it!”
The key difference being: the novel is not about me. It’s about Una Fairchild, an extraordinary girl who is worth reading about. You’re interested, you say? Well, keep checking back in. As soon as the time is right, I’ll post more about UNA here.