The rusty month of May

That’s what it’s been so far. Rain, rain, and rain, with a creamy drizzle filling. But the sun has finally come out, the temperature has risen, and it looks like I’ll have no excuse this weekend not to put on all those yard chores I’ve been putting off. Starting with mowing the lawn, which is about knee high and going to seed.

I’ve decided not to go see the new Robin Hood movie in a theater. Michael Medved hated it, and nobody else seems to like it much. Plodding, dull and grim are about the most positive comments I see. But I might have gone to see it, just for the swords, if I hadn’t found out it’s two hours and twenty minutes long.

For St. George’s sake, Hollywood–there’s no excuse for a movie to last two hours, twenty minutes! Length does not substance make. All it means is that you haven’t got the self-control to use the DELETE button on your editing machine.

A couple links. This one from Touchstone’s Mere Comments blog may interest Phil–in Scotland, a Roman Catholic historian has joined with a former newspaper editor to protest the “scandalous” lack of attention to the 450th anniversary of the Scottish Reformation.

In an interview with ENInews, Devine, a professor at Edinburgh University, said, “Two of the greatest legislative events in Scottish history are the Reformation of 1560 and the Act of Union [when the Scottish and English parliaments merged to form the Parliament of Great Britain] in 1707.

“The [300th anniversary of the] latter was almost ignored in Scotland. Now, there appears to be reluctance on the part of both the Scottish government and the Church of Scotland to mark the 450th anniversary of the Reformation, which was an event which changed the face of this country and paved the way for a Scottish enlightenment and a new relationship with England. I think this is scandalous.”

And continuing with the theme of European declension, here’s a piece by the great Mark Steyn for Maclean’s, about the increasing loss of liberty in Great Britain.

You can always rely on me to keep things bright and cheerful.

Who Do You Follow on Twitter, If Anyone?

Rachel Deahl of PW writes about who is influential on Twitter. She notes, “One firm fact of the publishing Twittersphere is that it’s a meritocracy. CEOs and editorial assistants—if they’re skilled (and frequent) tweeters—can draw equal crowds.”

Rados, who was named repeatedly as someone who ‘gets’ Twitter, said she believes the social networking site can sell books. ‘An author can tweet about their life, their process, start a conversation about their characters, and those readers who feel a connection will most likely buy a book. I know I do,’ she said. Rados then elaborated with an example, pointing to Jen Lancaster, author of My Fair Lazy, who she follows. The day Lancaster’s new book came out, Rados said she bought it, in hardback.

I’d think blogs can do that too, but one does have to be where the people are. I’ve thought about tweeting a bit, microblogging as it were. I’m not sure it’s for me though. I don’t even have a smart phone or a personal laptop, so why should I try to get involved in the Twitterverse?

Always Say Goodbye, and Bright Futures, by Stuart M. Kaminsky

In March of 2009, mystery author Stuart M. Kaminsky moved with his wife from his Sarasota home to St. Louis, Missouri, in order to wait for a liver transplant (he’d contracted hepatitis during service as a military medic in France in the late 1950s). Two days later he suffered a stroke, making him ineligible for the surgery, and he passed away the following October.

The online accounts of his death I’ve read give no hint how (or whether) Kaminsky’s health affected his writing plans. But these last two novels in his Lew Fonesca series (my favorite of his four detective series) possess an elegiac quality, as if the author was tying up loose ends.

I’ve told you about Lew Fonesca before. He’s a bald, skinny process server in Sarasota, Florida. During most of the series, he lives in the back room of his tiny office, next to a Dairy Queen. He gets around chiefly by bicycle. He doesn’t want to own anything, and he doesn’t want people in his life. He’s chronically depressed, overcome by the death of his wife, in a hit-and-run accident in Chicago a few years back. He drove south until his car broke down in Sarasota, and settled where he stopped.

And yet he doesn’t stay alone. Over the course of the books he acquires a staunch friend in the old cowboy Ames McKinney, who backs him up in tight spots. An old woman he once helped took in an unwed mother he rescued, and now he’s sort of an unofficial godfather to the baby. He has a girlfriend. There’s a “little brother” (who likes going around with him because shots tend to get fired). A therapist. And (in the final book) a Chinese man who sleeps on his floor, for reasons you’ll have to read the novels to learn.

You might think these books would be depressing. They’re not. In fact—it occurred to me while reading Bright Futures—they’re actually rather funny. Lew Fonesca, like some farcical Job, is the butt of a cosmic joke. The God in whom he claims not to believe (he’s a lapsed Episcopalian) seems to be playing games with him. Continue reading Always Say Goodbye, and Bright Futures, by Stuart M. Kaminsky

P.D. James on Detective Fiction

Author P.D. James has a book about detective fiction with an excerpt here. She writes:

And why murder? The central mystery of a detective story need not indeed involve a violent death, but murder remains the unique crime and it carries an atavistic weight of repugnance, fascination and fear. Readers are likely to remain more interested in which of Aunt Ellie’s heirs laced her nightly cocoa with arsenic than in who stole her diamond necklace while she was safely holidaying in Bournemouth. Dorothy L. Sayers’s Gaudy Night doesn’t contain a murder, although there is an attempt at one, and the death at the heart of Frances Fyfield’s Blood from Stone is a spectacular and mysterious suicide. But, except in those novels of espionage which are primarily concerned with treachery, it remains rare for the central crime in an orthodox mystery to be other than the ultimate crime for which no human reparation can ever be made.

One size does not fit all

Had a thought today, about something I discussed the other day, in my post on “How monsters are made.”

In that post I pondered a story of child abuse on the foreign mission field, and wondered how people who serve Christ sacrificially, far from home and comforts, could be so totally self-absorbed as to abuse children (child abusers, in my opinion and experience, are by definition people whose hearts are centered on their own needs and desires. They are profoundly selfish people).

I’ve figured out a way to think about it now.

I hasten to add that this is just my own way of wrapping my brain around the problem, and probably tells you more about the workings of my mind than anything in the real world.

But here’s my hypothesis. It starts with a story. Continue reading One size does not fit all

To make a long story short, takes work

Young woman flicking through book

Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall links to an interesting piece by jazz musician Eric Felton over at the Wall Street Journal. I don’t think Felton will make a whole lot of enemies with his complaint about the unnecessary length of much current entertainment, such as movies, music and books.

It will be objected that any number of canonic masterpieces are gargantuan. Yes, of course. But even many of those could stand a trim. Did “Moby Dick” really need the chapter called “Cetology,” Melville’s rambling effort to prove that whales weren’t mammals?

One of the constant occasions for worry in my novel-writing career has been that, once I write the story I want to tell, I generally find it’s only about 60- to 80,000 words long. Jim Baen liked novels to come in around 100,000 words. I believe he felt (and many publishers today are of the same view) that when a consumer plunks down $7.99 for a paperback novel, he wants to feel he can take a short vacation in that book’s world.

The idea of publishing shorter books, and charging less, is not up for discussion, it would appear. Continue reading To make a long story short, takes work

Book Reviews, Creative Culture