December 2013

Agatha Christie, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Agatha Christie, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

In re-reading Agatha Christie’s novels I’m listening to them rather than re-reading them.  I do have all her books, so re-reading all of the stories wouldn’t be a chore for me (the books are the 1990s Bantam collection in blue leatherette, the collection that is so readily available on eBay, and are the books that replaced my paperbacks whose pages were falling out). Still, it’s so much easier to listen to the books while I’m doing other things — we all multi-task nowadays, don’t we.

The novel I’m listening to now is A Murder Is Announced, a story set in the town of Chipping Cleghorn in which a Rudi Scherz apparently tries to murder Letitia Blacklock during an “announced” murder at Letitia’s house, Little Paddocks. In the story, Miss Jane Marple is informally assisting Inspector Craddock in discovering why (the now-deceased) Rudi would do such a thing.

Even though Mrs. Christie is called the Queen of Crime and her books are well-appreciated by readers around the world, I do listen to books other than hers.  One big difference, though, that I’ve noticed between Mrs. Christie’s Golden Age mysteries and many modern mysteries is in reading ease.   Mrs. Christie never confuses me, other than in strewing red herrings throughout the story.  I always know where I am in the story and who is who.

I’ve read the commonplace criticisms of her work: clichés, cardboard characters, and lack of depth.  My own criticism would be the repetition in what the characters are called as she seems to be fond of certain names — Archie Easterbrook in A Murder Is Announced, Mark Easterbrook in A Pale Horse.

Despite the weak spots in the Christie books, a strength I value is Mrs. Christie’s ability to tell her stories in such a way that she doesn’t baffle the reader concerning the story’s narrative, or at least, she doesn’t baffle this reader. Even when I’m not multi-tasking, I appreciate being able to follow a story even if I usually can’t figure out whodunnit.

1978: Me, in the red dress, and my son, on the right, with friends, looking across the Saale river into East Germany, near the Bavarian town of Hof.

1978: Me, in the red dress, and my son, on the right, with friends, looking across the Saale river into East Germany, near the Bavarian town of Hof.

German filmmakers are making films depicting life during the 40-year existence of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik, the DDR, East Germany.  Apparently, it’s a space that has been left vacant for the most part.  To quote an NPR review of a recent film, Barbara, a German entry for the Oscars,

“The West kind of got there and said, ‘Now you can be happy.’ … I mean it’s 40 years of their lives. … They can’t be in vain. And no one asked.”

I’ve seen two films about life in the former East Germany after it was “former,” when the life was the life after the fall of the totalitarian Communist regimes in Eastern Europe:  Schulze Gets the Blues and Goodbye Lenin.

Barbara is the first film I’ve watched from the Eastern point of view about how people managed during those 40 years on the other side of the fence.  At the time, no one on this side of the fence imagined they’d ever be a former enemy.

On Netflix, I have just discovered Phryne Fisher.

The first two episodes of the series (all that I’ve seen, at the moment) are of excellent quality, capturing the elegance of the 1920s. I also find the characters to be engaging.  I’m hoping that the books are as evocative.

This Friday is my youngest grandson’s sixth birthday. It will be his best birthday yet, at least according to him, because it will be 13 December! Of course, all his other birthdays have been on the 13th of December, but at the end of this week, it will REALLY BE 13 DECEMBER!

He’s jazzed about Friday as only a six-year-old can be about his birthday.

For his present I’ve bought a few toys, of course. No child’s birthday is complete without toys. The present he probably won’t be expecting is a story, a birthday-adventure story about himself featuring his favorite color (blue), his favorite outdoor game (disc golf), with the story set in his favorite place (Wuhu Island from the Wii Sports Resort game).

In addition to all that, the illustrations are by his 10-year old cousin. I printed out a draft of the story that she read, and then she drew six pictures from the story in one of her sketch books.

2013 12 Dec 08 Drawing for Ems's book 01

In this part of the story, my grandson is working at the Swordplay Colosseum on Wuhu Island. The swordplay game is one of his favorites.

In order to get my granddaughter’s pictures to me, and because our schedules are busy, her mom left the sketch book outside their front door in a Ziploc® bag, and her Poppa swung by to pick it up. I scanned the pictures and saved them to my hard drive so that I can print the pages on photo paper. I’ll mount them back-to-back with spray glue to make strong pages, and then bind them into a book with comb-binding, just like my dad used to do for our family photo albums. It will be a production, but I think the little guy will be pleased with the book.

My grandson reads, but he doesn’t read his grandmama’s blog, so this will still be a surprise, as his birthday is in the story.  Just know that on Friday his cousins and I will be wishing him a very happy birthday.




My grandson is thrilled with the story — he can’t believe how many people he knows in the story.