Archive for the ‘March, 2012’ Category


Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

FD has never been able to keep a diary (too self -conscious).  But FD has loved reading other people’s diaries, especially those of Virginia Woolf.  Even when a poor graduate student, who wasn’t studying English modernists, FD bought the VW diaries in hard cover and moved them from apartment to house to house.  Alas, trying to read Pepys’ diary didn’t work out as well. There is a great on-line source for Pepys’ diary, that began many years ago,  (2003 or earlier, not sure of the exact date).  FD tried to read along but gave up rather quickly.  There didn’t seem to be enough time to start at the beginning, between the footnotes and the commentary and everything else that FD was reading and doing, Pepys was soon abandoned, with the same kind of regrets that accompanied FD’s attempt to read all of Montaigne’s essays.

Anyway, last night, FD finished Tim Jeal’s new book about British explorers in Africa (nice piece here on the Yale Press blog). It would not have been possible to write that book if the explorers themselves had not kept detailed diaries.  Jeal was able to include a lot of information that the explorers did not disclose in what they wrote for publication or even in letters.  It is mind-boggling to imagine those men (and women!) keeping diaries in the very difficult situations they describe.  Sickness and injury, hunger and fear, none of it sounds at all pleasant, and yet they were also able to write about beauty and wonder and the goodness, as well as the evil, they encountered.

FD is not surprised to have seen nothing to match those diary entries on Facebook.  Perhaps there are blogs that rise to the level of the best diaries, but perhaps not.  It may not be possible that blog posts written for an immediate audience to have the same depth that is found in diaries.  Diaries, even when the writer intends them to be read later, or to provide information for what they will write for publication later, are  written with an understanding that (in most, if not 100% of cases) that they will not be read.  Surely, this results in more “truth” — or perhaps more truth-revealing lies.

The Paretsky Project

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

There are dozens of mystery series with female protagonists, some with millions of fans.  FD likes female protagonists but hasn’t found most of these series to be compelling.  There’s the numbered-title series by Janet Evanovich, and the alphabetical series by Sue Grafton, not to mention Marcia Muller’s mysteries featuring the private detective Sharon McCone, a very long series that started in 1977.  And those are just some of the most prominent.  The number of caterers, book store owners, dog walkers, cat owners, and other women who appear in mystery after mystery speaks to the power of women readers, who keep these series popular.  FD has read  a number of books in a developing series by Sophie Hannah that includes a complicated woman character who is in the British police, but that character is one of a group, not a primary focus of the novels.

Despite having some misgivings over series in general and despite having a dim memory of having not enjoyed reading one (now not even sure which one) book in the series that was read long ago, FD recently decided to read the entire V.I. Warshawski series by Sara Paretsky,   FD has also seen the disaster of a movie made from the series, starring Kathleen Turner.  A movie that should have worked, but didn’t.  Nevertheless, after reading several good reviews of the latest Warshwski mystery, FD decided to give the whole series another chance.

FD has now read the first Warshawski novel and is mostly through the second.  It is interesting to see a writer developing a character, and using the tropes of mystery writing.  In the first novel, Paretsky writes an unpleasant scene in which Warshawski, like Sam Spade and other “hard boiled” detectives, is badly beaten by the bad guys.  In the second novel, Warshawski is in a car accident and a blown-up grain delivery ship.  None of these events has caused any lasting scars.  There’s also a funny rant in the second novel, the protagonist finds pagers offensive and decries the idea of being constantly available to an employer.  At this date, it’s almost cute.

The novels have each had a male character who serves as a possible romantic interest and is also part of the mystery.  FD will be watching to see if that model continues in subsequent books in the series.