sábado, outubro 29, 2016

The Lure of Good Crime Fiction: "The Wrong Side of Goodbye" by Michael Connelly


I used to feel that I shouldn't like reading Crime Fiction, like I did in 2014, in what I always remember as my Crime Fiction Year; it was in that year that I sensibly decided that a well written Crime Fiction novel has as much "intrinsic value" as any other book, however much the literary snobs may turn their noses up. Good writing is good writing, whether it's a spy or a SF novel. After 2014 I haven’t read much Crime Fiction. My bad, but as soon as a new Michael Connelly, or Ian Rankin comes out, I’m already moving them to the top of my TBR Pile, like I did with this “The Wrong Side of Goodbye, as I’ll do with “I’ll Rather Be the Devil” by Ian Rankin, coming out on the 1st of November. I love a good Crime Fiction Novel. This is due to my teenage years, when I was reading detective fiction by the bucket-load as if there was no tomorrow (Christie, Sayers, Stout, Allingham, Ambler, Block, P. D. James, Chesterton, Hammett, Simenon, Rendell, Marsh, Innes, Chandler, Dürrenmatt, Westlake, Camilleri, Highsmith, Burke, Thomson, Higgins, Crais, Spillane, Leonard, etc.). And then, in more recent years I discovered Rankin, Connelly, C. J. Samson and Scandinavian Fiction, and a few other stray Crime Fiction writers like Ken Bruen. Scandinavian Crime Fiction is still one of my favourites all round. When I had finished all of Mankell's wonderful Wallander books, I started looking elsewhere for Scandinavian fiction. Helene Tursten's Inspector Irene Huss is wonderful as is Ake Edwardson's young, hip Inspector Winter, while Liza Marklund's newspaper reporter, Annika Bengtzon gets herself into some riveting, nail-biting situations. Karin Fossum's Inspector Sejer is great, as is Arnaldur Indridason's Inspector Erlunder. These are all excellent translations (unlike the earlier Swedish thrillers by Maj Sjöwall/Per Wahlöo, whose translations left something to be desired; that’s why I read the 10 volumes in German, because I couldn’t read stilted and crappy stuff).



When I had got through all the Wallander books I was devastated, which is how I found these other wonderful Scandinavian mystery writers. There is apparently something about the Scandinavian climate and temperament that makes for much-too-my-liking crime stories. Unfortunately, it is looking like there won't be any more Wallanders since Mr. Mankell has gone to another plane of existence.

This leads us to the latest Connelly’s instantiation. Connelly has a very acute understanding of rhythm and pace, knowing how to let a story unfold without too much interference from plot devices. So there is a natural feel to the way I’m drawn inevitably into the world he creates. On top of that he writes wonderful women characters (his daughter, for example). I don't know who stated that while women can write men because they occupy a patriarchal society, male authors are completely unable to write convincing women. I don’t agree. Connelly is able to do it. Is it the way of things writing-wise that the writing profession will soon only be permitted to write stories about the writers themselves because they don’t have legitimacy to portray others?

I’ve been a lot on Bosch lately. I just binge-watched the whole 2nd season in one single weekend. I'm still amazed that people still believe it is possible to faithfully recreate novels to the small or large screen. Bosch is amongst the best there is. TV and film are a different medium demanding different use. If they can even evoke a sense of the place or characters they are doing well. It’s impossible to do a faithful recreation of a novel, but this adaptation is pretty good (not perfect, but what is?). On the whole, this TV show is still better than several other shows of recent years, namely Westworld, which is just a bunch of drivel, no to mention Lee Child's Jack Reacher series being also totally botched by having a half-pint Tom Cruise. Season 2, much more than season 1, is a wonderful example of how to slowly unify seemingly disparate ongoing stories without getting tangled up in contradictions or dead ends, like Connelly in this latest installment, “The Wrong Side of Goodbye”. In this novel we get two stories instead of just one, but the final, all-embracing arc is still compelling and tightly constructed. No major character is wasted, and everyone ends up with a role that is both a necessary component of his or her sub-story and a plausible, intelligible part of the master story.

A final note to say my piece about Titus Welliver. The guy is one of those great TV character actors who shines in everything he's in but has never been given a truly lead role until "Bosch." No surprise, whenever someone gives an actor like that a lead role, they almost always knock it out of the park. He's terrific as Bosch, and it's a testament to what happens when you give a guy a long deserved break rather than just embed a movie star into a TV role because they're desperate.

SF = Speculative Fiction.


NB: Sorry about the name-dropping. Couldn’t be helped. I love them all.

terça-feira, outubro 25, 2016

I'm getting stick from GR's staff and the author about the book "A Bullet For Carlos" by Giacomo Giammatteo because of a review I wrote

This is the review I posted on Goodreads:

"Arthur C. Clarke may have been the worst great writer I can think of (probably along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov). Clarke’s prose is workmanlike at the best of times, his characters are emotional ciphers, his dialogue is seldom real, his plots are more like giant landscapes than any credible unfolding of events involving real people, and style-wise he happily breaks every rule of Good Writing. Clarke doesn't care. And know what? Neither do I. Some of things Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein wrote are still among my favourite novels. The rest of this review can be found on my blog."

This is the review I posted on Booklikes and on my blog:

"Arthur C. Clarke may have been the worst great writer I can think of (probably along with Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov). Clarke’s prose is workmanlike at the best of times, his characters are emotional ciphers, his dialogue is seldom real, his plots are more like giant landscapes than any credible unfolding of events involving real people, and style-wise he happily breaks every rule of Good Writing. Clarke doesn't care. And know what? Neither do I. Some of things Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein wrote are still among my favourite novels. In genre fiction, if I pick up any modern novel, basically the villains are just cardboard characters that have to be locked up or arrested or shot by the good guys. Nowadays modern Crime Fiction is an entertainment genre and it’s huge business (in Britain around 30% of all the fiction published belongs to the Crime Fiction section). Crime Fiction is all about resolution, which you don’t get in real life. Although I have a bit of a reaction to this, it can be very good entertainment if it’s done properly. Along with lots of other readers, I like the way I get sucked into Clarke’s bigger-than-space narratives. I get excited along with his cardboard but engaging characters in the vast spaces, unique vistas he shows us. When I read Clarke, I know I’m reading a fellow geek, a non-artsy-fartsy guy, who was able to produce the wonderful trick of writing Fiction that resembled literary work. Nay, I must not think thus…. Something that is literary. Better than, in some cases. This long preamble takes us to the novel at hand: “A Bullet for Carlos” by Giacomo Giammatteo. Was the constant POV shifting annoying sometimes? Absolutely. Does Giammatteo always move skillfully between the main character’s first-person account (Connie’s) and omniscient third-person narration? No, not by a long shot. Is it comparable with the best Crime Fiction out there today? Nope. Is it highfalutin literature? No. But it was all so damn fun. "

This is what I got from GR’s staff:

“Hi Manuel, We're reaching out because your review of A Bullet For Carlos by Giacomo Giammatteo was recently brought to our attention. It looks like the review was written for a different book. Would you mind moving the review to the correct book within the next three days? If not, we will have to remove it from the site, as it doesn't belong on that book's page. Here's how to move a review: 1. Click here to navigate to your review. 2. Click on "edit" at the far right. 3. Your review edit screen will open. Copy the text of your review and paste it into a safe location. 4. Scroll down and click on "remove from my books." 5. Navigate to the correct book by searching for it in the search bar at the top of the page, and add it to your "read" shelf. 6. Your review screen will open. Paste the text of your review into the review field and click "save." Please let us know if you run into any trouble with this - we'd be happy to help. Sincerely, The Goodreads Team”

This is what I got from the author (Giacomo Dimmatteo), posted on my blog:

"Manuel: the review states it is for A Bullet For Carlos, by Giacomo Giammatteo, but the review is for Arthur C. Clarke."

This is what I posted on GR and my blog:

"I'll post here the relevant section for clarity's sake:

The review is for "A Bullet for Carlos." You're not reading the review properly. I'll post here the relevant section for clarity's sake: "[..] When I read Clarke, I know I’m reading a fellow geek, a non-artsy-fartsy guy, who was able to produce the wonderful trick of writing Fiction that resembled literary work. Nay, I must not think thus…. Something that is literary. Better than, in some cases. This long preamble takes us to the novel at hand: “A Bullet for Carlos” by Giacomo Giammatteo. Was the constant POV shifting annoying sometimes? Absolutely. Does Giammatteo always move skillfully between the main character’s first-person account (Connie’s) and omniscient third-person narration? No, not by a long shot. Is it comparable with the best Crime Fiction out there today? Nope. Is it highfalutin literature? No. But it was all so damn fun."

This is the email I sent to GR’s:

“The review is for "A Bullet for Carlos." You're not reading the review properly. I'll post here the relevant section in bold for clarity's sake: "[..] When I read Clarke, I know I’m reading a fellow geek, a non-artsy-fartsy guy, who was able to produce the wonderful trick of writing Fiction that resembled literary work. Nay, I must not think thus…. Something that is literary. Better than, in some cases. This long preamble takes us to the novel at hand: “A Bullet for Carlos” by Giacomo Giammatteo. Was the constant POV shifting annoying sometimes? Absolutely. Does Giammatteo always move skillfully between the main character’s first-person account (Connie’s) and omniscient third-person narration? No, not by a long shot. Is it comparable with the best Crime Fiction out there today? Nope. Is it highfalutin literature? No. But it was all so damn fun."

As you can see, I make a connection between Clarke's work and Giammatteo's book. What I did has a name: "Close Reading". I don't take kindly to this kind of interference. MAAntão“

Bottom-line: I've been entirely absent from GR's, apart from maintaining my book repository there, just in case. In the past I'd several reviews deleted because of stuff like these. That's why I left. I see everything is just the same. Same old, same old...I don't know why I bother.



Comments: 31
notifications:  yes  no
BrokenTune
BrokenTune2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydelete
GR is just so aggravating. :(
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydeleteedit
I just wish GR's read the reviews properly. Do they read them or do they just skim? They just have to read the review to understand what it's about, and not take into account the fact the review was flagged by the author.
Troy's Blog
Troy's Blog2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydelete
They skim. It's like that in Amazon's customer service dept too. You have to tell them to "read an email carefully, twice, before responding based on past performance" before you get any quality reading from them. They get points for how many fires they can put out quickly, not for how well the fire stays dead.
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydeleteedit
I'm curious what their response will be to my email...I pinpointed what they should be reading...
Troy's Blog
Troy's Blog2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydelete
That they should read at all is probably an affront to their sensibilities. lol
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
Snort. Indeed!
Troy's Blog
Troy's Blog2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
What a beating. One of the many reasons I torpedoed my account.
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydeleteedit
I'm bruised all over...morons (author and gr's staff)...I DELETED MY ACCOUNT! BUT BECAUSE OF WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH BL's LATELY I JUST LOADED MY STUFF AGAIN!!!! BIG FU"#$%&NG MISTAKE!
Troy's Blog
Troy's Blog2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
Live and learn, my friend. GR's owned by Amazon. While I like some of their services, the reviewing side of things on any of their sites is suspect at best. I got out before they started browbeating people for reviews. I was getting browbeaten by fellow fans of certain genres for defending things like the Star Wars prequels or pulp authors from the 20s and 30s. Things apparently got worse after I left, but now it's the commercial side rather than the end users doing it.
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydeleteedit
You're absolutely right my friend. The way I was made, makes me seeth with rage at things like these...
Troy's Blog
Troy's Blog2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
I will not say you're wrong in that response. I'm wired up that way myself.
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydelete
I certainly didn't need any additional reasons for not returning to GR (let alone posting any reviews there), but if I *had* needed any, this would have been 187 too many (187 is the word count of GR's response to your review, at least by Word's reckoning).
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydeleteedit
You're also absolutely right Themis. I don't understand how can they waste the effort on sending me the email, when they could have spend the time reading the review. What I don't believe (i REFUSE) to believe is the fact that they'are siding with the writer, even when they probably know is in the wrong (admiting they read the review to begin with)...
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydelete
They didn't read the review, and they would have sided with the writer in any event ...
Obsidian Claus
Obsidian Claus2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydelete
So they can't read. Sigh.
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydeleteedit
Yes. That seems to be the problem Obsidian. Or maybe my English is not up to par. Or maybe I just don't know what I'm doing or saying... Or maybe I've just gone bonkers without my noticing it...I'm flabbergasted!!
Obsidian Claus
Obsidian Claus2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
That's a shame, and I hope they get it and back down. It's not your fault they have reading comprehension problems.
Burfobookalicious
Burfobookalicious2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
At least this seems to endorse my decision to move away from GR. The former sense of community among readers/reviewers does seem to be diminished and further compromised by the apparent intrusion of corporate interests, which is worrying for the quality of feedback and debate. In the long run I suspect such sanitizing may prove counter productive.
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books
Themis-Athena's Garden of Books2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydelete
You're doubtlessly right -- unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have made a difference on either Amazon or Goodreads in years and years. :(
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydeleteedit
I'm in two minds whether I shouldn't delete my account once again...
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
All it takes is ONE complaint by an author and any review is up for censoring on GR now. I'm sorry you are dealing with this [on your blog no less] but I hope you lambast the writer.
Every time I even "wonder" about perhaps, maybe just a smidge, going back to GR I hear something like this and it just reinforces that I CAN'T go back to a place like that.

I'll comment on your blog later this evening, unless you'd rather I didn't :-D
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydelete
reading the whole thing again, what they're going to get you for is posting a NON-majority of your review on GR with a link to the rest.
That is how they shut out my reviews now.
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
and that is a review from 2014. Did the writer JUST complain now?
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydeleteedit
Yep. Two years later...Go figure!
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydeleteedit
Bookstooge, feel free to write whatever you want. Freedom of speech and writing above everything else.
Murder by Death
Murder by Death2 weeks ago+2 / -0replydelete
Bookstooge is right - they're going to claim that the review -as it stands on GR- isn't a review of the book by that author; they really don't like review summaries that redirect the reader off GR at all. Because the portion you posted on GR is the preamble of your full review, and doesn't mention the author's work at all, they'll use it as justification for deletion.

Of course if they weren't sell-outs to censorship in the first place, nobody would feel the need to redirect people to off site reviews.
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road
Bookstooge's Reviews On the Road2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydelete
Antao, I posted my comment but I'll probably end up deleting it. Gestapo comparisons were a bit much, even for me :-D
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydeleteedit
Boostooge. Just read your take on the issue. I'm still lmao here, and I'm already at work. Priceless...thanks. Much appreciated.
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+0 / -0replydeleteedit
Murder by Death. You're quite right of course. It's a battle lost. These corporate types only see what they wanna see. No use arguing. But what about the author? Why do they loose sleep over things like these?
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios
Musings/Träumereien/Devaneios2 weeks ago+3 / -0replydeleteedit
I've just received a twitter notification from the author repeating the same stuff he left on my blog previously...I'm speechless...I told him to go and re-read my review. If he has any doubts, I'm available to give private tutoring...
Troy's Blog
Troy's Blog2 weeks ago+1 / -0replydelete
Bravo.
http://booklikes.com/photo/crop/30/30/upload/avatar/8/b/azure_8bbd602b10d21482082dcb77df3da221.jpg


segunda-feira, outubro 24, 2016

The Implausibility of Happenstance: "Children of Earth and Sky" by Guy Gavriel Kay



Rick in Casablanca notices the vast implausibility of happenstance: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” Is serendipity a good thing in fiction ever? For me, one of the precepts of good writing has always been that coincidences are only permissible when the writer is setting up the narrative. Indeed, they’re often necessary: Circumstances have to come together in some way to launch an extended action. A sudden hailstorm brings man and woman together under the same awning, creating the necessary meet, and things can build from there, as it happened with Rick and Ilse. But, in my Tomus Primus of Good Writing wisdom says: “don’t use a coincidence to develop or resolve the plot.” It seems Kay forgot this cardinal rule. Happenstance is all over this novel. When the story actions start resulting from Deus-Ex-Machina instead of the characters’ choices, purposes, reactions, plans, and the like, something is deadly wrong, because these factors create patterns of cause and effect that enriches the lives of those same characters. The problem in wrapping up a story with happenstance is that it robs the main characters of their strife. Serendipity to get characters into trouble are great; Serendipity to get them out of it are cheating. When coincidence takes over, I stop caring about the characters, and the book dies on me. Kay is one of my favourite writers. I don’t get it. Ghost writing in play here? In my everyday life, the millions of things that whiz through my day never match up so cozily. And I don’t notice it when they don’t match up, because I don’t see them coming. The non-serendipity of everyday life goes unregistered because they’re so pervasive. In a novel the writer has to care of business, because I notice these things like a hawk. Close Reading at work.

domingo, outubro 23, 2016

Move-Without-Moving-Feet Trick: "Shakespeare's Globe on Screen Twelfth Night" Play Review

(The pit at the base of the stage at the Globe Theatre)

This is one of the productions that showed me what the Globe is for. I'm an unashamed fan of this theatre, which took a decade or so to overcome unjustified sneering from much of the profession. It's been the best thing to happen in Shakespearean theatre and possibly all English theatre in the last two decades. With zero public subsidy it has taken extraordinary risks. Both Rylance and Dromgoole have brought a streak of inventive madness to the project. I’ve never had the pleasure to attend a live performance of Sam Wanamaker’s theatre. While I don’t do that, sometimes I have the chance to watch a play from the Globe, either on TV or on DVD. On April the 23rd, being the date what it was and being in a hotel room, I was frantically zapping all available TV channels trying find some stuff on Shakespeare on TV, and I stumbled upon this Rylance’s production (on RTP2, the state channel, of all places…).

(Mark Rylance)

Unfortunately, when I caught the play it was already on. At the end of it, I just said to myself: “I must get my hands on this!” I went to sleep thinking about the play. I think I even dreamed about it. Comparing this production with the RSC (King Lear) I saw last weekend, I much prefer this one. Mark Rylance was simply beyond genius, to put it mildly (his repeated the move-without-moving-feet trick was priceless). This production felt as if it rebalanced the play. It was one of those wonderful productions where I hear lines I've heard a million times before and suddenly realise why they are funny. 

(Stephen Fry)

Stephen Fry was good and was probably the most sympathetic Malvolio I've ever seen. The scene where he approaches Olivia was just heartbreaking. I’ve been a Fry’s fan for years. I think he's simply quite funny. He makes me laugh. And his wit is usually erudite and sometimes quite clever (his exposition on language in Fry & Laurie remains one of my favourite clips when I have to tell someone about the mixture of foppish pretentiousness and genuine insight that one sometimes finds amongst Oxbridge types). Peter Hamilton Dyer was simply magnificent as Feste. As he sang “The Wind and The Rain”, leaning out to cup his hand in the downpour... The roar as he sang: But that's all one, our play is done, And we'll strive to please you every day had to be heard to be believed. For those limited types moaning about it being all male, it adds something very interesting to watch something that is not only constrained by the availability of costume and gender that Shakespeare was originally constrained by, but to see what fun he has with Viola: a man, pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a man. When Rylance ran the place he put on two seasons with all-male *and* all-female companies. I’ve seen quite a few Twelfth Night versions (e.g. Branagh’s, also one of my favourites), but I’d never appreciated until I saw Rylance’s production the sheer depth of comic possibility in that role. I think the fact that it's a man playing it definitely helps: Olivia is goofy, but normally she's just played as being a bit woeful and bothersome. Rylance is simply, so far, my definite Olivia. All in all, absolutely magnificent.

NB: Pictures taken by me from the film.