Friday, March 30, 2012

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Title: The Big Sleep
Author: Raymond Chandler
Publisher: Knopf (1939)

 There are many releases/publishers for this novel. Mine was a UK version so I enjoyed a book filled with "tyres" and the like. I couldn't find a cover image so I took my own photo (featuring Hedgie and another book I read recently, and really liked) so that everyone could enjoy who I assume is supposed to be Carmen. In any case, I think Vintage's release is the easiest to get right now.

Michael and I didn't reach quite as far back as Austen's day this month but we're still kicking back with a classic. It's appropriate for us to visit one of the originals of the hard-boiled PI novels together because it was Michael who championed PI and mystery novels to me. In general, I prefer more modern authors when it comes to mysteries but it makes me feel high-brow and literary to visit those who blazed the trail. For anyone new to this series, this is where we choose a book/movie pairing and I say a few words on the book and Michael says a few words on the movie.

Philip Marlowe is hired by General Sternwood to look into a blackmail case. Sternwood has two daughters who tend to get into scrapes now and again. Sternwood is being blackmailed for the gambling debts owed by one of his daughters. The General doesn't mention anything about a missing son-in-law but, in the course of the blackmail investigation, pretty much everyone else does. Investigating both becomes a priority for Marlowe in the course of this novel.

If I sound a little sinister as a parent, Mr. Marlow, it is because my hold on life is too slight to include any Victorian hypocrisy. I need not add that a man who indulges in parenthood for the first time at the age of fifty-four deserves all he gets.

General Sternwood utters these words at the very beginning of our tale in regards to his indifference to his daughters' behavior. This is all well and good but it's a shame he's thinking of this so egocentrically. Whether he thinks he's getting what he deserves does he stop to think of whether his daughters are getting what they deserve? I was so preoccupied with my disgust with him as a parent, and the resultant contemptuous humans he financed, that I had a hard time really caring what happened to anyone. I almost got the feeling that I was supposed to have some sort of sentimental respect for the General (I'm quite sure Marlowe did) but some old guy retaining a bit of frankness is not enough to elicit my admiration. Anyway, this is all I'll say about this because it would otherwise make for a long ranty post totally focused on this guy's real stupidity in not encouraging these women into some sort of occupation. I realize it was 1939 but rich people have never been subject to the same restrictions as others. For heaven's sake, they could have taken up sailing or something. Ok, ok, shutting up now and moving on to the book.

If he ever gets wise to where you were last night in the rain, he'll wipe you off the way a cheque raiser wipes a cheque.

Yeah, it was that kind of book with that kind of language. I liked it, and it especially works in the beginning when events are crackling along at a nice pace. But it also has this sort of language:

Go ------ yourself.

Literally! Our gentle eyes cannot be abused with harsh language so it's blanked out. Extreme violence, gay and racial slurs are A-ok but (oh my!) let's be sure to keep "fuck" out of this book. How funny! It also danced around the pornography so I was never quite sure how serious an extortion ring the bad guys had going. Anyone familiar with that era's naughty pics want to enlighten me?

They put their beaks in their drinks, gurgled swiftly and went back.

Like I said the book starts off pretty action-packed but then it lulls a bit after the set-up. There is a period of time when Marlowe gets approached about the case more often then he goes out to investigate it. But, as you know, where a PI goes death was there shortly before so it doesn't lull for long. The plot, dare I say, thickens and Marlowe becomes more and more suspicious of events that appear unrelated to the blackmail.

While I enjoyed the turns of the plot and the descriptive writing style, I was never immersed in the story. Marlowe wasn't off-putting but I found no particular reason to like him all that much. He had a nice sense of justice and loyalty but that's plain good business sense for a PI. Sternwood I took in immediate dislike (the above rant probably makes that obvious) and the daughters were used as plot devices. The rest of our cast of characters were run of the mill baddies or too briefly seen to be interesting. I find it very difficult to really enjoy a story if I don't have a character with whom I can empathize. It doesn't matter if it's a hero or a baddie, I just need someone who I can connect with emotionally or via a clear motive.

It's nice to explore the root of a genre by taking these historical reads but for my avid reading I know I'm more likely to seek out modern mystery writers. Where do you stand on the classics?

Don't forget to check out the film review! And here's my favorite quote to enjoy on your way out:

"Tsk, tsk," I said, not moving at all. "Such a lot of guns around town and so few brains."

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Coming up next:
We don't post April's selection on April Fool's Day but it appears to be our month with a twist so check back next month for a little spin on the routine.

Links to previous joint posts: 

March Book Reviews

The latest issue of San Francisco Book Review is out and available for viewing here. More reviews are, of course, available at City Book Review.

My review is not now posted online yet (my reviews seem to be a month behind online and in the publication) so no active link at this time. This is also a title I plan to come back to later for a longer review. There were several things about it that caught my attention but that could not fit in the word count limit for these shorter reviews.

Invisible Sun by Davis Macinnis Gill

What have you been reading lately?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

N. K. Jemisin on SFC

Don't miss this post on N. K. Jemisin's blog!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Is there a substitute for hard work?
Unfortunately, almost always.

--Sherman Alexie

Monday, March 19, 2012

Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey

Title: Curly Girl
Author: Lorraine Massey with Deborah Chiel
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc (2002)
An expanded second edition of this book is now available

I can't even remember how I found this book beyond that it was part of an enormous internet time suck I had a couple weeks ago. I don't remember what I was first looking up or how I got stuck on the internet FOR HOURS!!! But, I did, and I went to the ole library to check out this book. (The expanded edition plus a few goodies from DevaCurl are wending their way to me now.) Let me say this first: If you have curly hair and you feel like it never looks its best/does anything you want/stops frizzing then you will enjoy this book. As in, stop everything you're doing and get it now!! :)

This is a handbook on how to manage various types of curly hair and how to get more curl from your hair. It's also a slightly bizarre "love your curls" manifesto that made me laugh a bit but never really bothered me while I was reading. Perhaps I would have appreciated the Curly Love more if I had the type of curls that can be absolutely wrecked by a bad haircut but I do not. However, I do now have much curlier hair due to this book.

The book's chapters take you through the nature of hair and how best to care for it (yay, science!), identifying the type of curls you have, a daily routine to care for your type of curls, recommended products (not brands, but ingredients to look for/avoid) and home recipes; then subjects like how to cut curls, color them, helping kids with their curly hair and various styling tips. I hear the expanded edition comes with a DVD with example videos but you can also find videos at this link if your library doesn't have the latest edition.

But does it pass the test? Yes! I've been mostly following the recommended routine for my curl type and I saw a difference immediately and fantastic results in about two weeks. Much more curl, far less frizz and I think it'd be even better if I followed the routine to the letter. The reason I don't is my one complaint about the book: it doesn't come with any tips for long, thick hair. Apparently most curly hair is thinner and, in general, most women do not wear their hair as long as I do. So I get that I'm in the minority here but I can't wet my hair daily (notice I say wet and not wash because you don't use shampoo more than once a week and certain types of curls are no shampoo at all) as it takes HOURS to dry. Brrr, too cold in winter and not necessarily going to be practical in summer. However, as the book suggests, I'm trying various things and "getting to know" what my hair needs to be its curly best. If you've got curls that could use some handy tips then this book is the right place to start.

rating: 4 of 5 stars

Friday, March 16, 2012

Continuing Tourney Action

Men's brackets are closed but if you made an ESPN bracket you can join my group. It's here.

If you feel like doing the women's bracket (Obama and I have Baylor going all the way), you can still sign up and my group is here.

I can't believe I've never done this before. It's so much fun. I was under the impression that doing a bracket meant you'd need to actually care about/watch the games. But it's no such thing. I don't think I've ever had so much fun watching numbers change as a clock counts down on a ticker. The last two minutes are great fun, you just root for your bracket needs. Huzzah!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Late Tourney Action

I'm not big into college bastketball or march madness (gasp!) but I am a fan of the doctor and the dude. As such, I made an ESPN group for the tourney bracket challenge. If you'd like to join in the fun (you can join at any time, even after the tourney begins) then head to this link and join my group.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Back when I used to watch every movie that came out rather than just every movie trailer, back when I worked in a video store (pre-DVDs and everything!), back when I lived at the beach... oh wait, that's not right... anyway.... Back then, I took a fairly large amount of pride in giving good movie recommendations. If you would kindly share a few titles you liked and why, I was pretty sure I could get you out the door with something you'd like. My feedback was universally positive which either speaks to my success rate or the kindness of movie store patrons in not blaming me if it didn't work out.

My pride in recommendations has retired from the movie realm and moved into the book realm. I've always been a bookworm but I now have so many more people around me that read for pleasure. I guess in high school and college folks were just trying to get through the required reading. Or just weren't interested or who knows, but the point is, yay, more people I know are reading these days. So now I get a little information about the books a person likes and proceed to make recommendations. I have learned that this is not what everyone does. I have learned this the hard way.

What do you do when a friend recommends something and it's crap? I don't mean that you simply don't like it but that it's crap. Crap = poorly written, uses offensive stereotypes, relies on cliches rather than character development, etc. What do you say? I'm still searching for the appropriate way to discuss material that actually offends me but here's what I want to say:

You and I just discussed various titles and talked about why we liked them and you still thought this title would be acceptable to me? Why? WHY? And while we're at it, why doesn't the sucky writing bother you? Do you not care about character development? And, ok, maybe this is a "just for fun" title so then I have to ask: why aren't you offended at the egregious homophobia/sexism/racism? What is wrong with you????

Do you see why I am still formulating a better response?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dr Musacha says...

(while playing Just Cause 2)

Yeah, your cause isn't really just.


If I learn about your big life update via facebook we're not really friends, are we?

I wondered about this from the very start. My slow adoption of facebook (and once monthly logins) reflect my thoughts on what it does for friendship. I think it really helps you to get lots more information on your acquaintances and former friends. (Possibly it also helps with event planning?) But as for bringing me closer to my actual friends, no, it has not strengthened any of those ties.

There are friends and there are facebook friends... sometimes those even overlap!