Thursday, January 19, 2006

Found Art and Lost Causes

What the hell was I thinking? This blogging's hard work...

Mind you, part of it is my return from exile, and my wanting to catch up and comment on EVERYTHING. And I'm still hooked on discussion lists, where you stumble upon the most peculiar comment, such as:

"In my opinion, a review should never be a persuasive argument for or against a book. The book review should accurately report what happens in the book and how the story, characters, etc. are constructed. "

Or:

"That pedophilia is family-related is a vicious lie foisted upon the American public by the left in order to demean the importance of family.

The same is true of incest."

Words to live by, indeed.

BUT I DIGRESS...

By now, I guess some of you know the latest (and very late) issue of the THRILLING DETECTIVE WEB SITE is up, and the 2005 THRILLIES are rolling along.

If you haven't voted yet on your choices for the best (and worst) of the year in P.I. fiction (or thought of something else), feel free to go to the site and vote. Or send comments here.

Some of the surprises so far: some people really think Robert Parker is over-rated, while at least one stalwart thinks he's under-rated, at least critically. And who'da thunk someone dissing good ol' Steve Hamilton could inspire such spontaneous passion in his defense. Looks like my most over-rated and under-rated categories are goinjg to get a good workout this year.

And even though the THRILLIES are just beginning, I'm struck by how few P.I. -related films or TV shows there are these days. It's particularly interesting because there seem to be tons of P.I. books out there these days.

WHAT I'M READING (THE PULL OF THE GREAT WHITE NORTH):

Still plowing my way through a few private eye novels. Lambda-winner Anthony Bidulka's Russel Quant may be the world's first Saskatoon private eye but, disappointingly, TAPAS ON THE RAMBLAS takes place on a Meditteranean cruise.

But I'm encouraged by the discovery of another gumshoe from the Prairies: Eddie Dancer, who makes his debut in Mike Harrison's ALL SHOOK UP, and works the mean streets of Calgary. I'll have to track down a copy of that one, I guess.

And while I'm on the topic of Canadian gumshoes, I guess I should mention John F. Parker's COME CLEAN, which introduces Vancouver dick (and ex-Mountie) Kevin J. Porter. Unfortunately (even if it is just coincidence) COME CLEAN shares more than a few plot similarities with Walter Satterwait's enjoyable but flawed PERFECTION, which I just read a while back (and which itself shares more than a few unfortunate plot points with far too many other serial killer novels).

Is it just me, or is the entire serial killer genre one of the most conservative, formula-bound and often downright silly sub-genres in the entire field of mystery? With its featherweight motives ("What motive? we don' need no steenkin' motive. He's crazy!"), ridiculous deductions ("He only kills left-handed people with red-hair, therefore his mother must be left-handed and have red hair and have abused him.") and some of the most pretentious psychobabble this side of CSI, it's like pornographic cozies for those who get their jollies reading graphic (and lovingly detailed) scenes of violence. Snuff films for those too shy to rent them.

WHILE I'M BEING SO GOSH DARN CANADIAN:

Hats off to The Hip. A late Christmas gift finally found its way here, and it's a good one. YER FAVOURITES is a two-disc, fan-picked best-of that collects 35 of the Canadian rock band's best-loved tunes (and two new ones), ranging from acoustic ballads to raunchy grungy roadhouse blues. Passionate, literate and enigmatic, imagine a two-fisted Michael Stipe fronting the Stones, circa 1965. And for this homesick Canuck, their defiant, unrepentant Canadianism is a blast from home. The ghost of Peter Gsowski walks the land with a Fender jacked up to eleven.

OH, YEAH... THE BOSS

Also in the slot: The BORN TO RUN 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION boxed set is essentially the same CD it's always been (no bonus tracks), but with a couple of bonus DVDs, one an illuminating but long-winded documentary of the making of the album (Clarence and Springsteen worked sixteen hours straight to nail down the JUNGLELAND sax solo, Miami Steve SANG the horn parts for 10th AVENUER FREEZEOUT to the Becker Brothers, Springsteen -- surprise, surprise, was a "little obsessed" during the making of the album) and a really poorly shot film of what looked like a really good concert in England right after the CD came out in 1975. Perhaps the concert DVD shoulda been released as an audio-only flipside -- so we could really pay attention to the music and not be distracted by those awkward camera angles and the Boss' unfortunate choice in haberdashery (Badly drawn Boy wants it back).

AND NOW, SOME COMMENTS ON COMMENTS...

Bon Jovi? BON JOVI? Time to get off the Tilt-a-Whirl before your shirt gets caught, Dave.

Aldo. Stop thinking about my thighs.

And Twist? I'll be the guy with training wheels on, huffing and puffing...

R.J. It's pretty clear how King fucked with us in COLORADO KID, if you read it. But to tell you, if you haven't read it, would ruin it for you. I dunno -- am I the only one who thinks King succeeded pretty well at what he was trying to do? Unfortunately, most of the reviews seem to have missed the point King was trying to make, slamming him for the very things he deliberately set out to do. Or is it a simple case of them all jumping on the "Let's Bash a Big Name" bandwagon?

One of the best books of the year? No.

But certainly one of the more notable ones, and possibly even an important one, and one that should have kicked off a much more involved discussion about storytelling, plots, and why we read mysteries than we got. Best books are all predictably terrific in the same way, whereas notable books -- those that don't quite do it but are nonetheless fascinating and worth reading -- are all unique

But the big discussion never came about. Instead, the book slipped more or less away, leaving a lot of critics jumping all over each other, seemingly trying to outdo each other in bashing King, without once demonstrating that they had any inkling of what he was actually trying to do.

Or, in some cases, judging by some of the glaring factual errors about the book I've seen, that they'd even read the book. Many of the reviews, particularly online, seemed not to have been written so much as photocopied -- regurgitations of other reviews, which themselves may have been regurgitated -- which may explain how so many errors in on-line reviews, which are rarely edited, get passed around. And around. And around.

7 Comments:

Blogger Graham said...

Okay, now I have to read THE COLORADO KID.

And The Tragically Hip: Canadian Cassandras? "New Orleans is Sinking" came out like 20 years ago. Good thing everybody listened.

6:42 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Glen Davis said...

I've been bored with the serial killer plot for some time. Not only is there no motive, but all the serial killers seem to be perfectly interchangeable.

The Colorado Kid is a notable book, I think. I probably don't need to read another book like it, but it is notable becasue it is unique and what it had to say. I can't think of too many books with only three characters that kept me entertained the time.

10:54 AM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Dave White said...

Gina dreams of running away, she cries in the night, Tommy whispers, "Baby it's okaayyy." soommedayy...

1:16 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger gallant said...

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay is quite thrilling and original for a serial killer kinda book. Might not be to some peoples taste but it is fun, quick and breaks the mold for serial killer stories.

1:47 PM, January 20, 2006  
Blogger Aldo said...

Damn Kevin, must be all this Canadian beer I've been drinking.

Talking about new books....Jim Hansen has a book coming out soon called NIGHT LAWS. Damn good

7:48 AM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger Bill said...

I recommend Walter Satterthwait's just-released Perfection as a different take on the serial killer novel.

7:51 AM, January 21, 2006  
Blogger John said...

Speaking of Political Correctness... and I believe someone was...

I am old school, if you like, but respect is repect. It has to be earned or so I was always told.

Unlike a whole lot of other things I was told, it turns out it was true. Go figure...

Retired Cop (NB... Retired and not Ex...)

Okay. Back to the Jagged Egde of Blogdom.

12:19 PM, February 04, 2006  

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