Tag Archives: Agatha Christie

You Just Know Daisy Buchanan Would Text While Driving

If you’re someone who reads a lot—and I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this blog—the first book of the year you read can really set the tone for the rest of the year.  At least that’s what I came to learn in the early days of 2015; the first book I read this year was Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg.

I spent more time picking out a filter than I did reading that day.

Ortberg reimagines books as text message conversations between the characters and sometimes with authors as well.  An excerpt can be found here. She injects every iteration with humor while still managing to convey the gist of the plots. Her texts from Hamlet make him come across as a petulant teenager instead of a man in his thirties. The Lorax doesn’t only speak for the trees, but also for tampons. Scarlett O’Hara tries unsuccessfully to sext. Hermione Granger tries to explain what science and math are to Ron Weasley while simultaneously warning him that credit cards are not, in fact, magic. Sherlock Holmes ecstatically texts John Watson with his latest discovery—there’s cocaine you can smoke!

From Agatha Christie to Fight Club, from René Descartes to The Outsiders, no book or author is safe from Ortberg, cocreator of The Toast.  Some of her recent posts to the site include The Comments Section For Every Video Where Someone Does A PushupAny Rand’s Sweet Valley High and Haters Of The Sea: A Taxonomy.

Probably one of my favorite parts is the texts of Edgar Allan Poe.  He’s texting that he might not be able to make it out; he can’t leave his house because a bird keeps looking at him.  Then he hears bells that won’t stop ringing. Then because there’s a heart under the floor that won’t stop beating. There’s also a one-eyed cat that’s calling him a murderer. Of course these are the plots of some of Poe’s best-known stories, but the way Ortberg reinterprets it is something akin to near-incomprehensible texts from your drunken friend.

It’s a quick and funny read that made me want to track down some the original stories she spoofed, like “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Daisy Miller and The Sun Also Rises. I want to see for myself just how bizarre these characters and stories are. I’m sure there’s a comment to be made about the brevity of texting and our ever-shortening attention spans, but I’m not about to make it; I’m too distracted looking up videos of people doing pushups.

Have you read Ortberg’s book? If you could text any author or fictional character, who would it be and why?  Sound off in the comments below!

–Ross

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Locked Room Mysteries

A person is found dead, presumably murdered, but all the doors and windows to the room were locked.  How did it happen?  And more importantly, who did it?

This is the premise of the mystery sub-genre known as “locked room mysteries.”  However, this type of mystery doesn’t always happen in a locked room.  Sometimes the people are alone on an island together, alá Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.  Sometimes a person is found dead in the snow or the sand and there are no footprints approaching or leaving the area, such as in The Three Coffins by John Dickson Carr or Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Other times the murder mystery is simply an impossible puzzle.

The very first locked room mystery comes to us from that founder of the detective story, Edgar Allan Poe.  You may be familiar with this one from your required high school reading list.  His Murders in the Rue Morgue still serves as the benchmark against which all other stories of this type are judged.  If you haven’t read this since high school, try it again.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you think it is now.

John Dickson Carr is generally considered to be the master of the locked room sub-genre.  Other mystery authors who use this device on a regular basis include Andrew Greeley, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Herbert Resnicow, and Edward D. Hoch.

The Mystery Book Discussion Group will be starting a series of locked room mysteries this fall.  If puzzles (or mysteries) are your thing, please consider joining us.  We’d love to see you and we promise we won’t lock you out!

September 18th, 2009And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
October 16th, 2009 Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey
November 20th, 2009 The Bishop at the Lake by Andrew Greeley
December 18th, 2009Ten Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler
January 22nd, 2010The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

-Melissa

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Shelf Examination: Mystery

When the poor sap stumbled into my office, I could see he was desperate. “You’ve gotta help me,” he rasped. “You’re the only one who knows.”

I eyeballed his lanky form and decided he was more sinned against than sinner.  “Have a seat,” I said, and gestured to the battered computer chair where all my clients tell me their troubles.  “What’s your pitch?”

“I need…” He gulped, then glanced nervously behind him, as if he expected the reading police to show up at any moment. “I need a good mystery.”

A good mystery to idle away a summer afternoon?  I should have known.  Thoughtfully I leaned back in my chair and crossed my legs, inhaling deeply on my cigarette. I could try to brush him off with something simple, like a premade booklist, but something in his haunted, blood-shot, baby blues told me it wouldn’t work.   Not that booklists aren’t swell. But there was more going on here than met the eye, and if I wanted the mystery man to trust me as a professional librarian, I was going to have to give him a personalized list…and it was going to have to be a good one.

I sighed heavily, sat up straight, and fixed the stranger with my steely gaze.  His face brightened as I pushed a piece of paper and a pencil across the desk. “Here,” I said, “listen up good, and write this down.”

 classy dame

 

The Book: The Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, ed. Otto Penzler.

Check this out if you like: Short stories, pulp fiction, men’s adventure magazines, danger, suspense, dark alleys, dames both classy and treacherous, gumshoes, shysters, shamuses, double-crosses, or any of the other noir-y tropes common in Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.

The Book:  Big Boned, Meg Cabot.

Check this out if you like: Wrongly-accused protagonists, celebrity/fashion namedropping, stories set on college campuses, love triangles, heroines of realistic size, loyal friends, cute shoes, or other chick-lit elements.

book jacket          book jacket          book jacket

 

The Book:  Casanegra, Blair Underwood et. al.

Check this out if you like:  Hollywood highs and lows, street lit drama, heroes with troubled pasts, father-son conflicts, tales of redemption, celebrity authors, African American film history, the seamy underbelly of the rap business, or erotic fiction.

The Book: Death of a Cozy Writer, G.M. Malliet.

Check this out if you like:  Cozy mysteries, English country houses, family feuds, dry humor, a hint of self-conscious parody, drawing room scandal, secrets and lies, or stories reminiscent of Agatha Christie.

mysterious library

 The mystery man, visibly relieved, tucked the booklist into the breast pocket of his jacket and beamed at me from under the brim of his shabby fedora.  “Thanks to you, miss, I’m feeling a lot more literate and entertained.  How can I ever thank you?”

I smiled.  This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, I could tell.  “For starters,” I said, “how about you open up that briefcase you’re carrying and show me what kind of McGuffin you’ve got there?”

Cue the saxophones! And don’t forget to tune in next time for Shelf Examination!

–Leigh Anne

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized