Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Third Girl

I'm just finishing this novel of Agatha Christie's from the 1960s. The novel features one of her most famous and beloved characters, Poirot. Christie herself was less than favorably inclined toward her detective. In fact, this novel offers many sly references toward his arrogance, absurdity, and the fact that he may be over the hill. Here is one of those references from the second chapter:
"Who told this girl about you, Monsieur Poirot?"
"No one as far as I know. Naturally, she had heard about me, no doubt."
Mrs. Oliver thought that "naturally" was not the word at all. What was natural was that Poirot himself was sure that everyone had always heard of him. Actually large numbers of people would only look at you blankly if the name Hercules Poirot was mentioned, especially the younger generation.

I'm working my way through quite a few mysteries this summer and gaining more insights into the genre and how my stories will fit into it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Journalists: unable to resist puns

I'm interrupting my regularly scheduled editing and proposal writing (though I finally figured out how to fix my wonky margins... for now) to bring you a post about an obvious truth:
Journalists love puns. Even on the college level when we try to come up with headlines, the discussion almost always resorts to, "How about a clever pun?" I have seen many admirable examples of headline puns in newspapers, but the recent scandal involving the politician Anthony Weiner needs a post unto itself.
With a name like 'Weiner' the possibility for puns is simply too vast. Now, many newspapers have admirably stayed away from taking such juicy bait, but last night at the grocery store two papers caught my eye. One referred to 'sticking a fork' in Weiner because he's done, intentional or not, one could not help but think of the Oscar Mayer product when faced with this headline. Though it was not quite as good as the Huffington Post's headline "The Roasting of Weiner and the Public Good." Sounds like a community picnic.
Another paper on the stand referred to his 'rise and fall.' How can you print that without knowing the possible connotations? I'm sure everyone in the newsroom had a giggle over that one. That was the point where I rolled my eyes and walked away from the news stand.
Though I must admit that puns are no longer the lowest form of wit; 'your mom' jokes are.

Friday, June 17, 2011

My missing June

I cannot believe it is June 17th. May was such a long languid month, but June is passing me by so quickly I feel as though I missed it. I am not ready for summer to be half over. I realized that my August plans are destroyed by the fact that I have to be back on campus a week early to work on the theatre department show that goes up during the last weekend of September.
This past week I have emerged myself in a new batch of edits on my novel. I've also been trying to read more contemporary mystery novels to see what I'm up against. Last week I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was fairly engaging and enjoyable, but in made me have a mini-panic. The kind of mystery I'm writing is different from what seems to be dominating the market and I don't know if a publisher would find that favorable. I'm a worrier you see.
I think (or rather hope) that my stories will appeal to people that like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle because they're sort of the voices in my head when it comes to mysteries.
Anyway, as soon as I finish this round of editing, I solemnly vow to start writing my book proposal and finding agents to send the proposal to. Seriously.
Other than that, I'm working on writing press releases for some community stuff. I used to work with the organization and I heard that they were in need so, I offered my services. It's a good experience and some resume padding. Besides, it will get my writing into all the local papers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Romantics

A group of college friends is reunited over the wedding of Lila and Tom-- two members of the group. They were all inseparable and had a reputation for "incestuous dating" among themselves, hence the nickname "The Romantics." Now on the verge of thirty they have to face realizations about themselves and their relationships, most of which are not comfortable. For Laura, the maid of honor, it's especially difficult. She dated Tom all through college and on and off over the past few years. Not only does Laura have to confront her relationship with Tom, but her relationship with Lila.

This film has taken some serious hits from critics, but I believe there are worthwhile moments and performances. It does have some slow parts where the build-up within a scene seems to go nowhere. Unlike most movies that make it to the cinema, it moves at a novelistic pace (having been based on a book, this makes sense), allowing time for conversation and development of relationships.
The ensemble cast is fantastic. Katie Holmes, who I generally consider mediocre, puts a surprising amount of energy and emotion into Laura without becoming too theatrical. Anna Paquin plays the role of the repressed and slightly neurotic Lila. Josh Duhamel plays the conflicted, poet groom, Tom. Diana Agron, Malin Akerman, Jeremy Strong, Rebecca Lawrence, Adrian Brody, and Elijah Wood round out the group. The only performer that felt wasted was Candice Bergman, in the role of Augusta Hayes, Lila's mother.
After a long, strange night of searching, drinking, streaking, and poetic recitation, the friends must face the morning of the wedding. Though the ending is ambiguous, it has metaphorical overtones. It seems to represent the conflict that has dogged the characters. The fact is that sometimes not everything can be planned for and that the unexpected steps in. These "Romantics" like the romantic poets of old must appreciate the forces of nature. The setting of the film assists in that. Plenty of views of the sea and leaf strewn lawns create the backdrop for many key scenes.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blackbird House

Yet another book kindly provided by the local library.

Alice Hoffman weaves a tale spread over several hundred year following the inhabitants of a small house on Cape Cod. Blackbird House is home to love and loss. From the first inhabitants, victim to a tragic storm at sea, to an unlikely union between the town witch and a blacksmith, to a family from the city in crisis-- the house seems to be either a blessing or a curse to those who stay there.
Hoffman has made a name for herself playing with a style of writing known as "magical realism" often seen in Spanish language writing in novels such as Like Water for Chocolate and One Hundred Years of Solitude. It's a style that emphasizes little bits of fantasy in the everyday. From the significance of a ghostly white blackbird to a pair of red boots, the symbolism becomes real. Hoffman uses this stylistic move to create a world that is based in real human emotions, but full of magic and possibility. People and things can change their shape and almost be reborn by love.
Unfortunately in the last third of the book, some of this luster starts to fade. It becomes difficult to sustain the magic in more modern settings.
Overall, it is an engaging study of relationships. Some stories are ended without any real conclusion which may prove annoying to readers, but the next story is soon the focal point. It's a very quick read, and since each chapter is almost completely self-contained it's easy to put down and pick up again without feeling lost.
Though not as effective as Here on Earth, fans of Hoffman's style will appreciate this effort from her.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Sorry for the silence this past week-- I've been absurdly preoccupied. This is a novel I checked out of the public library a few days ago.

In his debut novel, Alan Bradley offers his readers the eleven year old Flavia de Luce. A precocious young girl, she is the youngest of three daughters, heavily occupied with chemistry. Her father, a widower and stamp enthusiast is alarmed when on a summer afternoon, their cook finds a dead Jack Snipe with a postage stamp skewered on its beak. That night Flavia overhears an argument in her father's study. The following morning she is fascinated to find a man in their garden's cucumber patch. With his dying breath he mutters a mysterious word and Flavia is off on the adventure of her life.
Though young and occasionally unkind, Flavia is irresistible. The reader follows her around town on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, while she conduct interviews and searches for clues in her private investigation. Bradley's mystery has plenty of layers of intrigue to keep the reader engaged while Flavia untangles the web.
Though the occasional plot thread proves to be dropped without much ceremony, it is an excellent mystery novel. Truly character driven, you read not just to find a killer, but to discover more about the cast of three dimensional figures Bradley creates. Energetically written, the 370 pages went quickly. There is a sequel out now, hopefully Bradley will be able to recapture what made this novel special again.