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I just finished reading my 200th book of 2012, _Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores_ by Jen Campbell (2012), which Alexx gave me for Christmas.
There are heaps of amusing bits in it, but I couldn't help feeling, as I read it, that it was the literary equivalent of rubber-necking at a traffic accident.

Here are a few tidbits which I thought my friends would find particularly amusing.

(Customer brings The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the counter)
Customer: I am Legolas and I need to spread the word about The Lord of The Rings. I need to have this book for free.
Bookseller: No, I'm sorry, I can't give you the book for free.
Customer's friend: You have failed your quest!

(At a university bookstore)
Customer: I'm looking for a book for my Northern Anthropology Class.
continued below cut )
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I'm currently reading a collection of short story mysteries set during the holiday time. Most of the stories are by golden age detective story writers such as Marjorie Allingham, Agatha Christie, and G. K. Chesterton. A few of the stories are more recently however. "Mr. Big" by Woody Allen is the second story in the collection, and I really enjoyed it, so I thought I would share. Here is alink to the story online:,Woody_Allen.htm

Now I'm off to search for the source of the final philosophical quotation.
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_The Case of the Counterfeit Eye_ by Erle Stanley Gardener (1938)

I wasn't very interested in reading any of the Perry Mason books--I grew up with the TV show in perpetual syndication, and I didn't think it was very interesting, aside from the fact that it featured another disabled investigator.

However, this title features a client who comes to Perry Mason with a pretty unusual story: someone stole his prosthetic eye and replaced it with a cheaper version, and he's pretty sure he's going to be set up.

This is probably my favorite WTF? plot for a mystery, and it even includes some very good information about prosthetic eyes, and that the better ones are a work of art, made to suit the individual user, as opposed to the cheaper out-of-the-box variety. I kept checking the copyright date. I was also surprised that the original Perry Mason of the book series was a lot less of a rule-abiding conservative in a suit than the TV series created. The original character (who is not disabled) plays pretty fast and loose with the letter of the law, and half of the fun is watching him pull another fast one.

My least favorite WTF? mystery was _Star Island_ by Carl Hiaasen. IT doesn't really matter what the blurb says a Carl Hiaasen mystery is about, as it always turns into a crazy free-for-all. Sadly, this mystery featured a crazy kidnapper eco-terrorist with a poorly-made prosthetic eye. If I had a dollar for every time I read a book with a crazy and/or evil guy with a badly made prosthetic eye. (My favorite is a Christopher Fowler Bryant and May book in which the antagonist is the Anti-Christ himself and, despite being the richest man in the world *and* the Anti-Christ, he still couldn't get a decent prosthetic ey; I kept thinking, If *I* was the Anti-Christ I would get a nice glow-in-the-dark yellow eye with the slitted pupil, and I'd get my enslaved mad scientists in Hell to make a vaporizing ray come out of it.).

Anyway, to get back to the book, the fact that the eco-terrorist was both crazy and had a funny fake eye just annoyed me too much to finish the book.

_It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses an Eye_ by Christopher Brookmyre

A kickass suburban granny turns international spy, so more of a spy thriller than a mystery. Also, no one actually loses an eye. It's pretty much all fun and thrills, and incredibly more interesting than _The Ex-Pats_, which got a lot of hype as a regular mom-is-secretly-an-international spy thriller. I was on something around page seventy when I realized nothing of any interest had happened yet. I bet the NY Times book reviewers put this on their "Best of 2012" list, as the NYTimes seems to really love serious writers trying to write genre books in which nothing interesting happens.
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I'm not normally a big fan of Ngaio Marsh because 1) I think her detective protagonist is pretty dull (really, what's the point of being a detective if one isn't going to be eccentric?) and 2) I find the pacing of her mysteries somewhat boggy and slow.

However, how can one resist a mystery involving mummers?

Well, maybe one can, but I couldn't, especially as there don't seem to be very many mysteries set on the winter solstice, which seems somewhat odd since, as this mystery points out, there are a lot of dark doings on the winter solstice, and that's even leaving aside all the werewolf birthday parties.

There's also a fanatical folklore lady and a number of rustic entertainments--including a pub called The Green Man and yes, there is a landlord's daughter--which kept reminding me of "The Wicker Man" in that creepy-cool way I enjoy (if this story had been written by John Dickson Car, it would have probably slipped in some gothic touches, like a coven of drug-crazed witches,* but this is Marsh, so that doesn't happen.)

The one element which I found rather icky was that there is a very negative stereotype of an epileptic man, and he is pretty much verbally abused throughout the story, and this is contextualized as allowable by other characters who like to talk about morals. The book was published in 1956, so one can mostly put on one's timetravel blinders and try to not dwell on it, but still, ick.

* I have been reading some John Dickson Carr stories which often feature murderers whose homicidal inclinations have been triggered by the use of...marijuana!
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The book currently on my scanner is _The Image of Librarians in Cinema (1917-1999)_ by ray tevis and brenda tevis, so I was particularly amused to see this new fiction title: _Betty Page Presents: The Librarian_ (2012). I haven't read it, but it seems to be pretty much what the title says it is: inspired by the images of Betty Page, a librarian transforms herself from dowdy bookgeek into a fetish princess. Wouldn't this look cute next to your librarian action figure?

This has been a public service announcement.
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How have I not seen this before? And it all begins with, Prospero's magic book was the _Necronomicon_, to which I can only reply, well, of course, why hadn't that occurred to me before?
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From the book on archetypal psychology which I am currently reading, _Pagan Grace: Dionysos, Hermes, and Goddess Memory in Daily Life_ by Ginette Paris (1990, 2003)

block quote start
I find it amazing that the Greek language crossed over so many natural boundaries, because the history of languages tells us that a natural barrier such as mountain, river or sea normally defines the frontier of a language. For example, the unity of Egypt or of Mesopotamia was clearly favored by geography. If we follow this reasoning, it's surprising that Greece, a chopped-up territory if there ever was one, could have attained such linguistic and cultural unity; from Cyprus to Ithaca to Sicily people could understand each other, as if language floated over mountains and bodies of water and even the most inaccessible peaks. This paradox illustrates the passion of the Greeks for communication. For them boundaries and frontiers were not obstacles but places to meet and communicate, a little like neighbors leaning over a backyard fence.

The Greeks expressed their talent for communication even when words could not be exchanged. They adopted a form of communication used by the Phoenicians, a kind of "silent trade." If, for example, I am the captain of a ship and I must get some fresh food, I might leave an assortment of gifts on the beach for the local inhabitants and then return to my ship. I come back the next day. My gifts are gone, but in their place I find fresh provisions that will help me continue my voyage and perhaps some crafted objects that I like bringing back home. If one of the objects I left is still there, I understand that the local people are not interested in it. If it was a fair trade, I might return.
The Greeks had an expression for these found objects--"a gift of Hermes," a gift that is left somewhere without knowing to whom it might be useful. Another example of this silent trade is given by the peasant who lives beside a well-traveled road: he might leave a "gift of Hermes" when he puts some bread, water and cheese in a jug at the crossroads. The hungry traveler leaves a "gift to Hermes" when he returns a few coins or other useful items in the jug after consuming the food. Adjusted to the invisible, this form of communication is based on intuiting the needs of someone who will never be seen or known. But since Hermes is "he who carries the message," it doesn't matter if the messenger is visible or not, or the language is verbal or non-verbal, literal, or symbolic, written or spoken, as long as people understand each other. (pp. 62-63)
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is the title of a book with recipes for cakes with a dark theme, including the Stabbed Cake, the Breakup Cake and, my favorite (of course) the Mini-Eyeball Cupcake.
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I thought this would be of interest to some of my friends.

_The Musical Sounds of Medieval French Cities_
by Dr Gretchen Peters (Cambridge University Press, 2012)
Drawing upon hundreds of newly uncovered archival records, Gretchen Peters reconstructs the music of everyday life in over twenty cities in late medieval
France. Through the comparative study of these cities' political and musical histories, the book establishes that the degree to which a city achieved civic
authority and independence determined the nature and use of music within the urban setting. The world of urban minstrels beyond civic patronage is explored
through the use of diverse records; their livelihood depended upon seeking out and securing a variety of engagements from confraternities to bathhouses.
Minstrels engaged in complex professional relationships on a broad level, as with guilds and minstrel schools, and on an individual level, as with partnerships
and apprenticeships. The study investigates how minstrels fared economically and socially, recognizing the diversity within this body of musicians in the
Middle Ages from itinerant outcasts to wealthy and respected town musicians.
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I include the context at length because it is just so delicious. The setting is an annual conference of Poe scholars.

block quote start
In Stockholm, the Argentinian had called the German a racist and a Euromaniac; the German had accused him of philocretinism. Intellectual controversies tend to be like dog fights without the teeth, in which the barking not the biting does the damage. In the case of Rotkopf and Urquiza, however, according to the report in The Gold-Bug, they had very nearly come to bites. So much so that Oliver Johnson had to break off his discussion of Poe's influence on
Lovecraft - in which he defended the revolutionary theory that a supposed twentieth-century invention of Lovecraft's the Necronomicon or book of dead names, was, in fact, an esoteric code dating back to the beginning of time and to which Poe had already made cryptic references - and leave the stage, with Rotkopf congratulating him, saying that every time an imbecile stopped talking, the intellectual climate on Earth improved slightly.
Oliver Johnson had sworn to kill Joachim Rotkopf one day, and Rotkopf and Urquiza had continued their argument in the pages of The Gold-Bug, in a series of increasingly vitriolic articles, which I had followed with fascination, never dreaming that I would one day hear those magnificent, erudite dogs trading insults for real.
block quote end

_Borges and the Eternal Orangutans_, pp. 16-17, by Luis Fernando Verissimo

Love is

Jul. 20th, 2012 02:08 pm
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having a sweetie who enables your book habit, especially when it is an incredibly geeky book about one of your favorite books:
_Naming the Rose: Eco, Medieval Signs, and Modern Theory by Theresa Coletti (1989)
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The new Lois McMaster Bujold book is available as an advance review copy in etext from the Baen Books Website. Alexx loaded it on his iPad and read it to me a few weeks back. It is--as I had always predicted Ivan's story would be--a romantic comedy which then turns into a heist novel, so it makes a great beach book (and there is even a beach in it).
Thank you to LJ user thnidu for prompting my memory.
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I've read many many books this year (110 so far), and most of them have been mysteries or crime fiction, and this title possesses a number of the cliches which have consistently cropped up, and which I find increasingly disturbing.

1. All the black people die. Okay, actually, one black person survives but, as this is the drug-dealing voodoo priestess who skins a live cat with her teeth, I'm not giving the author any credit for it.
2. Except for a gay guy (who is also black), all the victims are female.
This cliche is something which I find particularly disturbing, as it occurs in almost all of the contemporary crime novels I have read lately: women and children are far and away the preferred victims, typically with some additional sexual abuse or dismemberment thrown in. The powerlessness and suffering of the victims--and these victims are always portrayed as powerless--is what provides the motivation for the male investigator's involvement, and also the justification for what often turns out to be the male investigator's own violence and insistence on working outside of the law. And why is it that inevitably female characters, even the voodoo priestess, *must* be saved by the white male?
3. The other person that the male protagonist is working with on the investigation is a black female police officer and, while I spent the first two-thirds of the novel uncertain as to whether she would die or not, this question was resolved for me as soon as she and the male protagonist had sex, because black + female + police partner + sex = like you even have to ask? Out of the other victims, one was described as a "party girl," one was a prostitute, and one was a gay male, so all of them were sexualized in one way or another.

I'm beginning to see the appeal of the "cozy mystery," because at least the reader can be reliably certain that there won't be extreme violence and sexual abuse toward women and children, and one can also be reliably certain that the female investigator will be doing the rescuing.
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Am I supposed to find Dief quite so adorable? I keep hoping that the female science fiction professor will ditch the oblivious engineering prof/writer and sweep Dief off his tweedy feet.

Now I must google for fanfic...
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I am currently reading Dorothy Sayers's introductory essay to her classic anthology, _The Omnibus of Crime_. My favorite passage of the day is written in regard to the fiction of "That voluminous writer, Mrs. Henry Wood," of whom DLS says: "Whether her problem concerns a missing will, a vanished heir, a murder, or a family curse, the story spins along without flagging, and, though she is a little too fond of calling in Providence to cut the knot of intrigue with the sword of coincidence, the mystery is fully and properly unravelled, in a workmanlike manner and without any loose ends."

"...calling in Providence to cut the knot of intrigue with the sword of coincidence..."--that is high-quality literary snark.

If you are interested in acquiring the etext of _The Omnibus of Crime_, go to and type "Dorothy Sayers" in the edit field, then select "texts" from the combo box. You will find a Daisy format ebook, which you can either keep as a Daisy ebook or, after unzipping the files, extract the .xml file and then change the extension to /html and read it in whichever browser or device you wish.
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I thought this might be of interest to my SCA friends

_Women and Aristocratic Culture in the Carolingian World_ by Valerie L. Garver (Cornell University Press, 2012)
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So, there were these three historians: a medievalist, a prehistoric historian, and a World War I historian (I'm sure there are jokes which begin like this, but all I could think of was one which began: "There were three engineers...", so if any of my historian friends know historian jokes, please post so I can address this sad oversight in my education).

Anyway, like a lot of historians, their studies have gained them much knowledge but little in the way of monetary riches, so they decide to share a house together. When their next-door neighbor disappears, the historians, who are very good at doing research and digging up obscure clues, decide to get involved.

And then it's as if the three musketeers decided that this time, rather than doing yet another adventure story with basically the same plot, they said, fuck that, this time we're ditching the poofy hats and doing a mystery!

I'm not sure that Fred Vargas intentionally rewrote _The Three Musketeers_ as a mystery, but once the idea occurred to me, I kept finding parallels. I'm not going to share them here, because they would be spoilers but, needless to say, there is a very evil cold-hearted woman who is working against them.

If you liked Arturo Perez-Reverte's _The Club Dumas_, I would recommend this book If you don't know who Perez-Reverte is, I would recommend this book anyway. If you have a thing for historians (swoonswoon), I would definitely recommend this book.

I've been averaging one Fred Vargas book a day for most of this week and, sadly, I'm almost out of Fred Vargas books, but I lovelovelove her novels. Before she wrote mysteries, Vargas was a historian and archeologist, so I'm thinking most of my friends would like her books.

I have one last Vargas mystery left and, oh look, it's supposed to be a rainy day tomorrow, so I won't even have to save it.
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After reading Josh Bazell's debut novel, _Beat the Reaper_, I had already regarded Josh Bazell as possessing a certain raffish charm since (aside from teaching me the word "autofemurectomy") it was clear that, as an author, he considered realism to be more of a very loose, lightly-penciled-in guideline rather than a strict narrative methodology. Still, I thought of Josh Bazell as more of a guilty pleasure rather than as totally irresistible.

However, after reading Josh Bazell's new book, _Wild Thing_, resistance is futile and I think I am totally in love with Josh Bazell.

1. Josh Bazell implies that he can deliver action and suspense, and he actually follows through.
Don't you hate it when a man promises you action and suspense and all you get are cardboard characters and lots of pedantic info dumps? Sisters, you probably don't need me to tell you that there are way too many guys who, no matter how many times a female reader says, "Show me, baby, don't just tell me," never manage to figure out what a woman wants, but *Josh knows*.
The story opens with a couple of teenagers necking at an isolated lake right before they are torn apart by an unseen someone--or something--and, before you can even say "bite me," there are wacko monster hunters, hopped-up methheads, a pair of redshirts named Del and Miguel, a friendly but stupid dog named Bark Simpson (Josh, you are so shameless!), not to mention our hero, an ex-hitman-turned-cruise ship doctor.

2. The main female character in the book is a punk paleontologist.
I never get tired of saying that: punk paleontologist.

3. There are frigging footnotes!
Also, an academic article written by the punk paleontologist and an extensive references reading list. It's as if Josh knows I'm a metasexual and that the way to my heart is through the paratexts.

4. Josh blinded me with science.
Okay, not really 'cause, hey, already blind here,! If I referred to this book as science fiction, some people would probably argue with me, but this book has more science in it than a lot of science fiction I have read. lately, and, see above, footnotes.

5. While the hero-protagonist his an ex-hitman-turned doctor, he doesn't spend a lot of time doing the alpha-male strut.
Actually, his mantra is "I am one dumb fucking shithead." I can't help but think that, if there were more male characters who had the superpower of admitting when they fucked up, that real-life males would be more willing to accept the radical possibility that the penis is not an antenna which allows males to possess all the knowledge in the universe.

So, those are my five reasons why I love Josh Bazell.

Note: if Josh Bazell should happen to read this review, I just want to say that I am not one of those crazy stalker-types, really, swear.


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