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February 2010

yes, anyway

I was all into the reading, you see. I read 5 Christie books, which I will be posting about soon, and some other stuff. Right now I'm on a Christie mini-break and reading Campion stories instead. But only for a little while. 

Today I was in a bad mood so I listed a lot of things that bring me pure pleasure, then went and found pictures of them. A lot of them are summer things. If you click on the links, they'll open in a new window. Or don't, as you like. Baseball season is upon us, so it's about to get a little busy here. But this thing is portable; maybe I'll get more done. 

 


Je déteste l'hiver, mais j'adore la neige!

I'm going to collect some snow/blizzard photos here, adding them in from time to time. If I haven't acknowledged your latest posts, I did read them, or will soon.


This is the view down the street at 4:30. You can see the cleared street view from yesterday below here somewhere. 
Here are a few more pictures from the front; they're not art, just a lot of white and lumpiness.

This is the backyard at 4 pm. The deck steps are so buried, the patio and yard are at about the same level. There are indistinguishable lumps of Thing here and there, though I do remember going around and seeing about it all yesterday. 


Here are a few pictures I took yesterday, everything neat and calm and under control after Saturday's eight inches of snow. 

Then there's this fun photo I took a few minutes ago from my window. 
It snowed about five inches during the night, and there's been freezing rain off and on ever since. The wind is just starting to pick up, which should turn the ice back to snow. Right now the forecast is for twenty inches. So I cleared the bricks in front of the house, and had the boys make paths to the sidewalk, and clear the sidewalk. No point in doing more than that, but it makes for a little less work later on, after the blowing stops.

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Go Back to L.A., Fool

"It's embarrassing that the world's largest superpower closes from a few feet of snow," said Alex Krause, 23, of Los Angeles, who was stranded in Washington and visiting the National Mall. "The Kremlin must be laughing."


Oh, I see. A place that normally gets 11 inches of snow per year suddenly has to cope with 6 times that much, so it's a failure by Alex Krause's standards because it's requiring some adjustment. Why did the AP quote this clown? For the same reason I just did? 

And, dude, the Kremlin? Seriously? How topical. Also, on a different latitude; look it up.



Christie Read: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

I stayed up late last night reading The Secret of Chimneys. That book is so entertaining to me, and it's one that I remember exactly how it comes out, yet enjoy all along the way, anticipating each interesting reveal. There are a couple of notes about it I've taken in order to discuss later, in conjunction with another book. In the meantime, next up is The Murder of Roger Ackroyd


This book is noteworthy for several reasons. It's the last book Christie wrote before her Troubles with Archie, her first husband. After that, she wrote several books through the rest of the 20s that just don't live up to the strength of this one at all, though I do find them interesting, myself. Then in 1930, after she met her second husband, Max Mallowan, she really came alive again, and wrote lots of great stuff over the next couple of decades, and more beyond that until her death. 

The story is told in first person, and includes Hercules Poirot, but Hastings is not the narrator. And the conclusion of it so startled contemporary readers, a number of them protested, as though they'd been taken for a ride. Well, they had been taken for a ride, and most reviewers consider it to have been a brilliant one. 

The problem with that is you can never forget how it plays out, so reading it again, even after a number of years, isn't like rereading most of the other books, which, with only a few exceptions, somehow manage to wind you up over and over again. Once you've read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, reading it over again is done with a leaning anticipation for the now-foregone conclusion. (You remember how I just said that delights me with Chimneys, don't you? I'm not contrary, though. The two books are done in a very different style.) Many people do not read books over and over again, so this wouldn't be a bother to them at all! But I will confess that usually when I'm reading through Christie, I leave this one out. I'm looking forward to enjoying it this evening, though, and do highly recommend it. It's a very good story, even though it is not one of my personal favorites. And if you don't know already how it's going to play out, you will probably, with 2010 sensibilities, really enjoy getting to the last pages and Poirot's denouement...


Christie Reading Catchup

I had a lot to share but would really rather be reading. It's been my intention to share different things about the books and the author as I go along. There's a lot you could say about Murder on the Links and The Man in the Brown Suit, which I managed to read last week, though ill and then attending to another sick child, the weather, and a ridiculous plumbing problem. 


Right now I am rereading Agatha Christie by Gillian Gill, and it reminded me of something I wanted to bring up. If you read these books in chronological order, you'll find that, for the most part, they have an every-other pattern to them. A basic detective mystery, fairly serious, then a more light-hearted adventure, then another detective story. 


Thus, Murder on the Links is the second Poirot book, and one in which he has to live up to the reputation he's making for himself,
 

and The Man in the Brown Suit is a fun, sometimes slightly silly adventure, more like The Secret Adversary, and narrated by the heroine, an 18 year-old girl. 



After that comes Poirot Investigates, which is a collection of short stories, and that's followed by a rather funny book called The Secret of Chimneys, full of mischief and mistaken identities. I'm actually going to read that one next, because I've decided to save all the short stories until the end. 

So I have a lot more to say about all this, but right now I really just want to get back to reading! 


snowy day, warm fire

I've been very ill this week, just starting to feel better. Got it from one kid, passed it to another. So the great Christie read will resume, well, probably later tonight. 


We've gotten 8 inches of lovely snow in this latest storm, with a bit more still coming down, and I have a few photos to share; nothing fabulous, just nice. Except I didn't know about the me one until it came off the camera!

This is my special anorak that I wear only in snow and heavy rain. That is why it is wrinkly. 

I was actually imagining, after clearing a little square space, what if this was some kind of Terry Pratchett novel and I had to spend the rest of my days shoveling snow from the whole planet? It would be so quiet, I think. 

Well, Pet Melt, anyway. I put some down so the mail carrier would think well of us. And so no one would fall and break a knee. That is the benchmark shoveling, after which I turned the job over to all these teenagers I grew. 

With headphones, she can conquer any task set before her. 

And a fire is cozy on a day like today. 
Too bad I'm upstairs, instead, keeping company with the latest puking kid. Oh, well.


Christie Reading: The Secret Adversary

Agatha Christie books take me about 2-3 hours to read. I could read one every evening, but probably will just cover 3-4 each week. Time will tell. 


I started reading Agatha Christie novels when I was 8. I do not say this to recommend that course of action or to promote the notion that I was a precocious reader. My interest in the books is informed largely by that fact, is the thing. 


My mom collected them, in a funny old bookcase I would love to now own. It was low and wide, with two open shelves at the top, and louvred sliding doors at the bottom, standing on 3-4 inch legs. Kind of a medium oak, dull finish, very sturdy, very MCM. The James Bond books were inside it, and a few of those Reader's Digest Condensed books, and some other things. Knowing my mother, none of them had been purchased new. 


I do have a bookcase, by the way, that I've had since childhood. Mom got it at a garage sale for me, painted it fresh in the backyard, and I've been using it ever since, though now and then it's been in a kid's bedroom. It's been half a dozen different colors. Right now it is just sort of beige. It's in the dining room and holds cookbooks. 


So Mom was on a Christie jag one summer, and I was out of things to read. I'd already filled out several of those "read 20 books/choose a book to own" lists at the library. I never had enough to read. I asked her if I could read an Agatha Christie book, and she said she would have to approve my selection. So I chose Hallowe'en Party, because it had a girl in it, and people bobbing for apples. 


I'm not sure she thought I'd finish it, but she agreed I could read it. I did manage to finish it, and another one, And Then There Were None, before moving on to other book interests, and didn't pick them up again for a couple of years. When I was about 10 or so, I started reading them again—I think it was because of that Agatha Christie movie mini-trend going on just about then (which I will touch on another time)—and Nero Wolfe stories as well, and have kept it up ever since. The order in which I read them had mainly to do with my age at the time, but also I  just started with whatever was in our bookshelves at home, then moved on to the selection at the library.


When I first read Hallowe'en Party again as an adult, I had to wonder if my mom actually noticed or reflected on the lesbian subtext. It would be interesting to ask her. Also, what titles, if any, she'd have said no to back when I first wanted to read them.


In 1991, shortly after I was married, I told the eventual LP that I'd like to collect Agatha Christie books, because I mourned the loss of Mom's collection. He let me parse out a bit of grocery money at a time for them, and over the next few years I ended up with all of them. Now and then one goes away, and has to be replaced. But I still have most of my original copies. 


I couldn't find this exact cover on the web, so I scanned it and a few others today. It's pretty worn, as it's one that has been read by several members of the family. I'm not sure why it has paint on it. Most of my "nice" books are in very good or excellent condition, but these things are made to be carried around and loved, you know? So they get wear and tear. 


The Secret Adversary is on my "definitely recommend" list, especially for anyone who enjoys reading about the World War One era and the years immediately following it. It is the first in a series of five books about Tommy and Tuppence. If you look them up, you will see that they take the form of four novels and one short story collection. But that's misleading; the short stories are in a simple plot framework and read like novel chapters as well as individual stories. So you can read the five books in order and watch how they progress. 


Tommy and Tuppence are very young in their first story. I think Christie already realized that by making Poirot so old in the beginning, she'd limited him to a pretty narrow space. So Tommy and Tuppence get to grow up and grow older in their stories, and that informs their behavior and decisions. Also, their stories are more specifically related to the time period in which they were written. 


The Secret Adversary is a bit slow, action-wise, through the first half. There's a lot of chatty dialogue, mostly light and engaging. It doesn't read as much like a detective novel as many of the other books; it's more like a very lightly romantic adventure. The other characters are pretty stereotypical, but I think Christie had a lot to do with defining those stereotypes, which is kind of fun to consider. 


You don't—at least I don't—read these stories in order to figure out "whodunit" as quickly as possible. You read them the way you watch an old favorite movie while savoring a tub of quality ice cream. The experience is in watching it all play out, not in seeing how clever you can be in a competition against the author. I think many people will figure out whodunit it in this story well before they have finished. But it's still a fun and charming ride to the end, and there are a couple of neat little twists in the conclusion.