Wednesday, October 28, 2009

meteors/goodreads book review: charles portis, the dog of the south

The Dog of the South The Dog of the South by Charles Portis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
so far, my favourite portis. it felt like it was of the same tenor of true grit, which i also really enjoyed, and there are parallels: both protagonists are on a journey to retrieve things stolen from them, and travel with men who uphold the law as they see fit. it also reminded me of jim thompson very much. i really do see a relationship between portis' books and vonnegut's, and joseph heller too.. my understanding is he is a reclusive man but i do like to imagine what it would be like for the three of them to meet: surely it would be utterly boring or bizarre. this book is a lovely collection of non-sequiturs, and common-place odd habits. i was surprised that ski, the man that dr. symes warns may be tracking him never appeared, but only after i read the book through a second time. i am left wondering why it was that doctor insisted on leaving only with his mother's cane. i expected there to be something in it, but if there was, i suspect i'll never know. there are truths here but i don't think portis really has any answers for me, only a wild ride. a passage i enjoyed very much:

I explained that I was very far from being a college professor and that I had never read poems or fictional stories and knew nothing about them. But the doctor kept on with this and Melba brought me her stories. They were in airmail tablets, written in round script on both sides of the thin paper.

One was about a red-haired beauty from New Orleans who went to New York and got a job as a secretaryon the second floor of the Empire State Building. There were mysterious petty thefts in the office and the red-haired girl solved the mystery with her psychic powers. The thief turned out to be the boss himself, and the girl lost her job and went back to New Orleans where she got another job that she liked better, although it didn't pay as well.

Melba had broken the transition problem wide open by starting almost every paragraph with "Moreover". She freely used "the former" and "the latter" and every time I ran into one of them I had to backtrack to see whome she was talking about. She was also fond of "inasmuch" and "crestfallen".

I read another story, an unfinished shocker about a father-and-son rape team who prowled the Laundromats of New Orleans. The leading character was a widow, a mature red-haired woman with nice skin. She had visions of the particular alleys and parts where the rapes were to occur but the police detectives wouldn't listen to her. "Bunk!" they said. She called them "the local gendarmes" and they in turn called all the girls "tomatoes".

A pretty good story, I thought, and I told Melba I would like to see the psychic widow show up the detectives and get them all fired or at least reduced in rank.

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meteors/goodreads book review: e.f. benson, queen lucia

Queen Lucia Queen Lucia by E.F. Benson

i knew about e.f. benson because ben had read some of his ghost stories, and i am wont to read ghost stories just about any where i can get my hands on them. it is not at all astonishing that i would read, for example, a collection of edith wharton ghost stories after i had forsworn reading any more of her novels (for the foreseeable future) because every time i read one i am even more depressed than i was when i started, and that is not why i want to read. that i feel that wharton's novels are wonderfully written is beside the point. in any event, even though i was looking for ghost stories i picked up this first novel in the lucia series (which is nothing at all like any ghost story i have read -- well maybe like wilde's canterville ghost, but that's it) by benson which much more like another favourite: wodehouse. i would like to transcribe a portion of the book here:

Dear Georgie:
It was such a lovely day that when we got to
Paddington Ursy and I decided to bicycle down
instead, so for a lark we sent our things on
and we may arrive tonight, but probably tomorrow.
Take care of Tiptree; and give him plenty of
jam. He loves it.
P.S. Tipsidoozie doesn't really bite: it's only his

Georgie crumpled up this odious epistle, and became aware that Tipsidoozie, a lean Irish terrier, was regarding him with peculiar disfavour, and showing all his teeth, probably in fun. In pursuance of this humorous idea he then darted towards Georgie, and would have been extremely funny, if he had not been handicapped by the bag of golfclubs to which he was tethered. As it was, he pursued him down the platform, towing the clubs after him, till he got entangled in them and fell down. Georgie hated dogs at any time, though he had never hated one so much as Tipsidoozie, and the problems of life became more complicated than ever.
i will be back to give you the rest of my review, but i must say i have a weakness for this kind of silliness: my favourite bits from robert benchley are those where he carries on a war with birds, even though i like them myself. i just think it's funny to set man up with some other animal nemesis. i have one myself. i acknowledge it's right to exist but i set myself at odds against the raccoon.
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