Reviews


When you’ve collected lots of books, it helps to have a system for organizing them — if you can’t find what you’re looking for, what’s the use of having it? I often sincerely wonder how people who live in very large houses find things — who keeps track of all the *stuff* that goes into furnishing large spaces?

In organizing my books I chose not to reinvent the wheel.  Someone had already done the groundwork of sorting-subjects, so why not use an existing system?  As for which system, I chose the one most familiar to me, the Dewey Decimal system.  I’ve read that it isn’t as detailed as the Library of Congress system, but as I’m unfamiliar with that system (no college for you, little girl!), I stuck with what I know.

The entire house isn’t rigorously organized as a library — I like to know where things are, but I’m not a rigid purist by any means.  Still, I have them all sorted: mysteries are in the bedroom, writing books are in the writing room, nonfiction is in the three large bookshelves in the basement, general fiction is in the entryway, children’s fiction is in the spare bedroom, cookbooks are near the kitchen, religious studies are under the knickknacks (no connection intended, it’s just where there was room), cartoon books are in the bathroom, and the Agatha Christie collection has a place of honor alongside the Junior Deluxe Editions children’s classics my parents collected when I was a kid.

Thanks to Mr. Dewey, I have a general idea of where to shelve books, but every once in a while a book stumps me.  Years ago a friend gave me a Dewey Decimal Classification book, but working through it to figure out where a book belongs when the classification isn’t obvious can take some time because, in a microwave/Internet/text messaging world, divining library classification entrails is something to be undertaken on a grey, slushy winter day with a cup of cocoa, and that isn’t today.

The book that flummoxed me this morning was CID: Army Detectives in Peace and War.  The press that published it didn’t add the classification numbers I usually rely on (thank you, modern publishers!).  This led to an Internet search — long story short, good old OPAC has it listed at the Ft. Leonard Wood library.  I haven’t regularly used OPAC since we lived in Belgium, so that was a fun trip down memory lane.  I now have the book classified at 355.1, which will put it at the far left end of the shelf of writing books with their 800s numbers.

Sorting books may not be everyone’s cup of cocoa, but if you want to find what you’ve squirreled away, having the books organized is the way to go.

It also gives the kids something benign to share as their penance for having been born into this family.

This past week Minotaur published Every Broken Trust, the latest book from my Sisters In Crime pal, Linda Rodriguez.  Last night the Mysteryscape bookstore in Overland Park, Kansas, hosted Linda’s launch party.  I arrived late, but Linda was still on hand to sign a book for me.

Linda Rodriguez signing my copy of her newest book, Every Broken Trust

Linda Rodriguez signing my copy of her newest book, Every Broken Trust

I haven’t yet read the book, having bought it only last night, but I believe one of Linda’s favorite reviews of the book is at the blog, Criminal Element, and she offers the first chapter of the book at her own blog, Linda Rodriguez Writes.

My mid-movie review of Zero Dark Thirty, scribbled in the dark on a bit of cardstock that backed some checks in my purse, was short: “intense, grim, dystopic” and  “not as tense as Argo.”  The film is, of course, fiction, but we all know about extraordinary rendition, interrogation and attacks by terrorists.  The modern world is messy and this was brought home to an American audience by this well-filmed movie: we are targets, and, we’ll do what we can to retaliate.

Despite my amateur awareness of the techniques required to artificially render a scene as realistically as possible, whatever techniques used by the director seemed to be invisible while I was immersed in the story.  I don’t remember seeing any of the dramatic ‘circling’ by the camera (a technique that leaves me dizzy) and little of other obvious filming styles that telegraph to a viewer that ‘you’re not really there.’  Much of this film appeared to be from a fly-on-the-wall viewpoint minus the static unblinking stare of a surveillance camera, and the viewer couldn’t easily hide from the knowledge that ‘something like this really happened.’  Those helicopters took a long time to get where they were going.

Although the film wasn’t as tense as Argo, it replaced Argo’s tightly wound suspense with an  uneasy sad weight, the weight that for a portion of the world’s population Americans aren’t the flavor of the month.  We want so much to be liked, but some people just can’t see our homespun goodness. Adding to the weight is that the people employed to minimize the danger for us can’t always play a civilized game of either keeping our information secret by simple means, or finding out what other people don’t want us to know merely by eavesdropping or reading the mail of those other people.  The movie is a graphic reminder of what George Orwell’s “rough men” do on our behalf to other rough men, and sometimes to those who have yet to do anything to us.  Too bad it’s a cycle not easily broken, if, indeed, it can be.

Trivia about the movie is at IMBd.

In other news, I am presently enjoying Donna Leon’s latest book Beastly Things.

When you are editing the translation of a foreign language novel, do not allow Swedish people in Sweden in a Swedish story to snack on Cokes, Heath bars and Snickers.  I’d much prefer to read the names I’m assuming were in the original, with a short clause about the items being snacks.

If I were reading a German book in translation, I’d expect to see Afri Cola or Sinalco; Hanuta and Duplo.  I imagine the Swedes have their own candies as well.  Reading “Coke, a Heath bar and a king-size Snickers” took me straight out of the story and sent me here.

Don’t do it again.

Otherwise, I’m finding Camilla Läckberg’s The Stonecutter engrossing.

I’ve been busy elsewhere with fallout from Learning by Grace, Inc., et al, v. Idoni, an artifact from my other life, so I haven’t been blogging about stories, writing, or the audio books I’ve been entertaining myself with, the most recent being Anteater of Death (a cozy mystery set in a zoo) and Foul Matter (a wicked take on the publishing industry by Martha Grimes, with the best hit-men evah!)

A link this morning from one of the writers at SheWrites, though, gave me the opportunity to do a quick link to a piece whose subject is one I’ve thought about:  ‘staying in touch online,’ in contrast with the memory of long days of relative solitude, ie, Before the Internet (BI).

  • Jonathan Fields:  “Creative Kryptonite and the Death of Productivity”
    Hyperconnectivity requires a massive volume of switchtasking, which destroys true-productivity and efficiency because every time you page through your various modes of connectivity and respond to different prompts, you lose focus. To regain that focus requires a certain amount of time and cognitive effort.

I’m sure part of my BI wistfulness is nostalgia for youth. When things were slower I was a hell of a lot younger and didn’t have as many ‘things’ to do to maintain a normal-appearing life — hair color?  every three weeks? (and no, you don’t have to point out that not only is haircoloring optional but the salon is, too; I get that). But wistful nostalgia aside, I used to get more actual activities done, although I doubt that with four kids, two cats, and a dog, I’d have spent much time online, if we’d had an “online.”

Mr. Fields’s blog post has more to it than mourning a BI life in which the most common non-person-in-front-of-us interruption was the telephone.  Then, phones were stuck to the wall so you had to be near one for it to interrupt you, and unless you had one of those long cords, you had to stay within, say, four feet of the phone to continue to use it, as did anyone who called you.   About the only wireless devices for everyday people were CB radios or walkie talkies, and you could tell who had in-car telephones from the whip antenna tied in a curve from the trunk to the hood.  Cool.

Wistful nostalgia aside, read on at the link to Mr. Fields’s blog to find out about “intermittent reinforcement,” and the “Zeigarnik Effect.”

For me, it’s back to the electron mines.  Tschüss.

On an email list dedicated to mysteries, another list member reminded me about the characters Bertha Cool and Donald Lam in the books written by A.A. Fair (aka Erle Stanley Gardner, Perry Mason’s creator).  Cool & Lam were favorites of mine a long, long time ago (1961 copyright for Shills …) and I wanted to see how well the stories had held up.  The three books available from my library are Shills Can’t Cash Chips, Bachelors Get Lonely (1961), and The Count of Nine (1958).

The upshot of Shills … is that Donald is still, in Gardner’s words “a cocky little bastard,” Bertha is still fat and irascible, and panties.  By the end of the book I felt that if I read the word “panties” one more time, the book might have wound up thrown against the wall.  Granted the book is a creature of its time, contemporaneous with the James Bond stories, but for crying out loud I think the underpants references could have been given a rest.

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