Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Nameless All-Dissolving Ocean

Cannon Beach, OR, May 31, 2012
Someone inside you steps from the forest and across the beach toward the nameless all-dissolving ocean. 
(from Astonished, by Don McKay)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Donald J Trump Becomes the 45th President of the United States of America

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Trespasser, by Tana French

I finished reading Tana French's 'The Trespasser' first thing this morning. I actually set it aside late last night, because I was getting so stressed out about it I knew I'd have trouble sleeping. Here's a review that tracks pretty well with my impressions of this outstanding crime drama.

Review by Alison Flood, The Guardian

There’s more than a little of the noir about Tana French’s latest, The Trespasser. Set, like her previous thrillers, among the detectives of Dublin’s murder squad, perhaps it (hard-)boils down to the fact that her protagonist this time, detective Antoinette Conway, manages to fizz with contempt for the world around her, bristle with toughness and sink regularly into poetic gloom all at the same time.

“The case comes in, or anyway it comes in to us, on a frozen dawn in the kind of closed-down January that makes you think the sun’s never going to drag itself back above the horizon,” says Conway, the only female detective on the Dublin squad, dealing with the cruel practical jokes of colleagues who want to see the back of her, and lumbered with straightforward domestic violence cases when she wants to be on the trail of psychotic serial killers.

This particular case looks like a lovers’ tiff, “just like the uniforms figured... some gobshite who got his knickers in a twist and threw a tantrum at his girlfriend”. Aislinn Murray is lying dead in her immaculate home, blond and beautiful. Everyone is convinced the boyfriend did it, but Conway and her partner Stephen Moran – both appeared in French’s previous novel, The Secret Place – believe there’s more to it. Or perhaps, tired of being given the easy solves, they just want this to be more than another “slam-dunk” case. Keeping it quiet from the rest of the team, they pursue a series of dark possibilities, in the process discovering there was more to the glossy Murray than met the eye (“everything about her seems dense enough with sadness to drop you like a sandbag”).

Conway is an enjoyably complex companion, both bruisingly misanthropic – “If he’s not our guy, he’s such a godawful damp weenie, the kind who needs regular slaps across the back of the head just to keep him from vanishing up his own hole” – and so in love with her job it almost makes you want to give it a try. “That pulse is hammering right through me, practically lifting me off the bench. Forget coffee; this job, when it’s right, this job is the hit that speed freaks throw their lives away hunting ... It’s a smell of blood raging at the back of your nose, it’s your arm muscle throbbing to let go the bowstring, it’s drums speeding in your ears and a victory roar building at the bottom of your gut.

French also pulls it out of the bag here with some of the best back and forth interrogation scenes out there. “No ifs and maybes twitching in the corners, gumming up the air, itching inside my clothes... Just me and the guy across from me, and what we both know he did. It lies on the table between us, a solid thing with the taut, dark shine of a meteorite, for the winner to claim.”

As she and Moran edge closer and closer to a dangerous truth, obstacles continue to fall or be planted in their paths, until they’re not sure they even want to get to the bottom of what they’re looking for.

While The Trespasser isn’t quite up to the intense brilliance of The Secret Place, it is still a gnarly, absorbing read, and a finely tuned slice of wintry gloom from one of the best thriller writers we have.

Read more about Tana French here.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Walk Don't Run

The quail, quivering with indignation at the interruption, scatter hither and yon, panicked but persevering in their refusal to fly, least they lose their dignity, they run stiff-legged, little best men at the wedding, dressed in their tuxes, running into bushes.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Story

“Hello Mayor Mayer,” Tom said, shaking hands with the Mayor. “I’m Tom Builder and I’ve come to your town to build houses.”
Mayor Mayer pushed his glasses up on his big, red nose, put his hands on his big, fat hips, and said in his little squeaky voice, “We have plenty of houses already, mister… what did you say your name was?”
“Builder, Tom Builder. Are you sure you don’t need a few more houses, Mr. Mayor?”
Mayor Mayer leaned forward and looked Tom Builder right in the eye and said, “Look Mr. Builder, we have houses of every description here in Eltopia. We have big houses, we have little houses, we have wood houses, and we have brick houses, we have one story houses, and we have two story houses, why, heck, we even have a three story house. That’s my house,” said the mayor, with a satisfied smile.
When Tom Builder got back to the hotel he told his wife, Hilder, what the mayor had said. “Gosh, Hilder, I don’t know what to do. There’s no work for me building houses here in Eltopia. How will I make enough money to take care of you, and little Milder and Gilder?”
“Don’t you worry, Tom Builder,” said Hilder. “You’ll think of something.” But Hilder was worried, too. Christmas was coming. Would she and Tom be able to buy the children presents? It’s not important, she thought. As long as we have a place to live and can put food on the table, we’ll be all right.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mesmerized, by Gayle Lynds

High-powered attorney Beth Convey gets a heart transplant, becomes enmeshed in a dastardly plot to assassinate the new Russian President, Vladimir Putin (the novel was published in 2001) -- right in the White House Rose Garden -- and finds herself endowed with a whole new set of skills and abilities as she fights to prevent the plot from succeeding.

Her adventures quickly team her up with Washington Post investigative reporter, undercover FBI operative, and undeniable hunk, Jeffrey Hammond. Together they battle US-embedded rogue KGB agents, anti-government American militia members, a mole in the FBI working for the Russians, and the various National Security agencies of the United States, who, as usual in these thrillers, get it all wrong.

If nothing else, Lynds manages a lively pace, but for what is basically a romance novel, there is only one sexual encounter between Beth and Jeff and it is painful to read. "He pressed his lips into her belly and tasted her, savory as buttermilk." Could be a yeast infection.

I'd been looking forward to the scene for most of the novel, because Beth's heart donor turned out to be a male Russian agent skilled in karate and general hand-to-hand combat, firearms, and high-speed driving, among other things, and Beth had "inherited" (I'll spare you the pseudo-science) his skills, his thought processes, many of his memories (which she relived through dreams), and apparently, something of his sensitivities. How would this manifest itself when, "panting," she kicked off her "thong" and opened her legs to Hammond?

First, she's wearing a thong through all this action?! Second, why aren't the two fighting for the top position? Third... well, I don't want to go there.

I admit I skimmed a lot of the book. I just wasn't that mesmerized.