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Archive Entries for October 2011

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Monday October 31, 2011

Books in October

  • Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly [read by Michael Brandon] BOM-NineDragons.jpg
    The opening chapters of this book remind me a little of Sherlock Holmes with Harry demonstrating his skills gained through years of experience ("data" rather than magical little grey cells).
    There has been an apparently (and sadly) conventional scenario involving a shooting at a Chinese liquor store but Harry methodically observes clues that the cops first on the scene have ignored - and which lead him to conclude it was not an "ordinary" hold-up. The action then takes him from LA to hook up with Eleanor again in Hong Kong, and where a set of surprising events change his life pretty dramatically. In reuniting with his daughter, they find they both have to come to terms with deep feelings of guilt and loss.
    I note again that some other readers (I guess clearly those who came to the books after watching the TV series) complain about the departure of the story-line from that on the TV regarding Eleanor and her HK life. However, I think you have to not only accept but embrace the fact that "Bosch" is an adaptation of the books, and includes many changes (Gulf v Vietnam war; stray dog v coyote; etc) in order to make it a contemporary drama and not a period piece.

  • The Teracotta Dog Andrea Camilleri [read by Mark Meadows]
    BOM-TheTeracottaDog.jpg This is the second in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano series. If I am not mistaken, this is one of the longer (or maybe the longest) book in the series, with a satisfyingly intricate plot line. It seems to me to draw together many themes used in other stories, involving communications with a mafioso, a contemporary local criminal investigation, and a 50 year old mystery from WW2. As usual Montalbano's approach to the problem - and his way of getting at a just solution - are novel to say the least.
    The stories were not filmed in order of the books, so having seen the initial couple of episodes in 2008, I read this book before I saw any TV depiction, and I anticipated that it would be tough to squeeze all the subtleties of this story into one episode. And I was right (unlike the other books which could almost - and maybe were, given Camillieri's background - have been written with a dramatic production in mind).

  • The Egg and I by Betty MacdonaldBOM-TheEggAndI.jpg
    A charming memoir which was immensely popular when it first appeared in the 1940s and is still capable of charming the audience of today. The author has a self-deprecating and wryly humorous style wry recording the apparently peculiar choice of her husband to up sticks from an office job in the city, and buy a poultry farm in the middle of nowhere [the wilds of Washington State]. As a a newly wed, she followed where her spouse led, joining in with gusto the impossibly hard life that ensued. Their decision was probably not as mad as the book implies - this was in the era of the great depression and unemployment and poverty was the reality for many. Also I note that in practice the author only tolerated this husband for about 4 years before going her own way...
    I also note that, while very entertaining, the picture painted of the local native American population is not very flattering to say the least, and I would have said "racist by today's standards" or as was claimed "in the context of the 1940s such stereotyping was far more acceptable". However it's pleasing to note that this was not really the case since after the book became such a success, the author faced law suits filed by members of the Chimacum community - rather less pleasingly I don't think they were successful, but it demonstrates the point.

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 4:38 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Thursday October 13, 2011

The Demon Barber of Fleet Street


I could not resist another opportunity to see Sweeney Todd at the Chichester Festival Theatre - this production with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in the title roles. The production was set in the 1940s - which I was pretty neutral about - not sure it added anything - and generally I think I prefer the brooding atmosphere of a Victorian London. However, overall, it was brilliant - the singing (and diction) particularly good. My only issue now is that whenever I see this show, that nothing can ever recreate the surprise and horror of my first experience seeing Sweeney dancing with Mrs Lovett and suddenly flinging her into the oven. And, quite rightly, this version treated the final scenes quite differently....

[Naturally the production later transferred to the West End in 2012, where it elicited a glowing review from Michael Billington in the Guardian, leaving him "grasping for superlatives... ...a fresh look without destroying its essential fabric." My sole disagreement with him is over his view that Mrs Lovett's "residual moral sense is quickly overcome by her love of profit" - when in fact I think her lack of "moral sense" was the most striking part of her character, made clear by the fact of her lack of charity towards what turned out to be Sweeney's wife, and denying all knowledge of her fate. I have always thought that although Mrs Lovett (unlike Sweeney) is an immediately lovable character, that it is she who is the personification of true evil in the story.]

Posted on October 13, 2011 at 11:40 PM. Category: Art and Culture.