Bookin’ It: A Literary MeMe

21 02 2008

From Shakespeare to James Patterson: It’s time for a book survey. You guys know my charming wife and I like to come up with memes. She thought we should do a book one, and I thought that was a very good idea. Feel free to use the survey; we always enjoy reading the answers of others! Sorry about the length of my “answer” to #1. (I’m taking a brief break from blogging about my current health, but for those wondering there was no new news today. An Ice storm shut down doctors’ offices early today.)

1. What is your favorite passage/line from a book? I love the Pendergast books by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Pendergast is a difficult-to-summarize, eccentric, extremely intelligent, usually mild-mannered, nearly albino FBI agent who does things differently than anyone else. Here is an excerpt from Brimstone:

The Sergeant took a detour around the lawn and cut behind a small duck pond and fountain, keeping out of the way of the SOC team. As he came around some hedges he saw a man in the distance, standing by the duck pond, throwing pieces of bread to the ducks. He was dressed in the gaudiest day-tripper style imaginable, complete with Hawaiian shirt, Oakley Eye Jacket shades, and giant baggy shorts. Even though summer had ended over a month ago, it looked like this was the man’s first day in the sun after a long, cold winter. Maybe a dozen winters. While the Sergeant had some sympathy for a photographer or reporter trying to do their job, he had absolutely no tolerance for tourists. They were the scum of the earth.

“Hey. You.”

The man looked up.

“What do you think you’re doing? Don’t you know this is a crime scene?”

“Yes, officer, and I do apologize—”

“Get the hell out.”

“But Sergeant, it’s important the ducks be fed. They’re hungry. I imagine that someone feeds them every morning, but this morning, as you know—” He smiled and shrugged.

The Sergeant could hardly believe it. A guy gets murdered and this idiot is worried about ducks?

“Let’s see some I.D.”

“Of course, of course.” The man started fishing in his pocket, fished in another, then looked up, sheepishly. “Sorry about that, officer. I threw on these shorts as soon as I heard the terrible news, but it appears my wallet is still in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing last night.” His New York accent grated on the Sergeant’s nerves.

The Sergeant looked at the guy. Normally he would just chase him back behind the barriers. But there was something about him that didn’t quite wash. For one thing, the clothes he was wearing were so new they still smelled of a menswear shop. For another thing, it was such a hideous mixture of colors and patterns that it looked like he’d plucked them randomly from a rack in the village boutique. This was more than just bad taste— this was a disguise.

“I’ll be going—”

“No, you won’t.” The Sergeant took out his notebook, flipped back a wad of pages, licked his pencil. “You live around here?”

“I’ve taken a house in Amagansett for a week.”

“Address?”

“The Brickman House, Windmill Lane.”

Another rich asshole. “And your permanent address?”

“That would be The Dakota, Central Park West.”

The Sergeant paused. Now, that’s a coincidence. Aloud, he said: “Name?”

“Look, Sergeant, honestly, if it’s a problem I’ll just go on back—”

“Your first name, sir?” he said more sharply.

“Is that really necessary? It’s difficult to spell, even more difficult to pronounce. I often wonder what my mother was thinking—”

The Sergeant gave him a look that shut him up quick. One more quip from this asshole and it would be the cuffs.

“Let’s try again. First name?”

“Aloysius.”

“Spell it.”

The man spelled it.

“Last?”

“Pendergast.”

The pencil in the Sergeant’s hand began writing this down, too. Then it paused. Slowly, the Sergeant looked up. The Oakleys had come off and he found himself staring into that face he knew so well, with the blond-white hair, grey eyes, finely chiseled features, skin as pale and translucent as Carrara marble.

“Pendergast?”

“In the very flesh, my dear Vincent.” The New York accent was gone, replaced by the cultured Southern drawl he remembered vividly.

“What are you doing here?”

“The same might be asked of you.”

Vincent D’Agosta felt himself coloring. The last time he had seen Pendergast he had been a proud New York City Police Lieutenant. And now here he was in Shithampton, a lowly Sergeant decorating hedges with police tape.

“I was in Amagansett when the news arrived that Jeremy Grove had met an untimely end. How could I resist? I apologize for the outfit, but I was hard-pressed to get here as soon as possible.”

“You’re on the case?”

“Until I’m officially assigned to the case I can do nothing but feed the ducks. I worked on my last case without full authorization and it, shall we say, strained some high level nerves. I must say, Vincent, running into you is a most welcome surprise.”

“For me too,” said D’Agosta, coloring again. “Sorry, I’m really not at my best here—”

Pendergast laid a hand on his arm. “We shall have plenty of time to talk later. For now, I see a large individual approaching who appears to be suffering from emphraxis.”

A low pitched, menacing voice intruded from behind. “I hate to break up this little conversation.” D’Agosta turned to see Lieutenant Braskie.

Braskie stopped, stared at Pendergast, then turned back to D’Agosta. “Perhaps I’m a little confused here, Sergeant, but isn’t this individual trespassing at the scene of a crime?”

“Well, uh, Lieutenant, we were—” D’Agosta looked at Pendergast.

“This man isn’t a friend of yours, now, is he?”

“As a matter of fact—”

“The Sergeant was just telling me to leave,” interjected Pendergast smoothly.

“Oh he was, was he? And if I may be so bold as to inquire what you were doing here in the first place, sir?”

“Feeding the ducks.”


“Feeding the ducks.” D’Agosta could see Braskie’s face flushing. He wished Pendergast would hurry up and pull out his shield.
“Well, sir,” Braskie went on, “that’s a beautiful thing to do. Let’s see some I.D.”

D’Agosta waited smugly. This was going to be good.

“As I was just explaining to the officer here, I left my wallet back at the house—”

Braskie turned on D’Agosta, saw the notebook in his hand. “You got this man’s information?”

“Yes.” D’Agosta looked at Pendergast almost pleadingly, but the FBI agent’s face had shut down completely.

“Did you ask him how he got through the police cordon?”

“No—”

“Don’t you think maybe you should ask him?”

“I came through the side gate in Little Dune Road,” Pendergast said.

“Not possible. It’s locked. I checked it myself.”

“Perhaps the lock is defective. At least, it seemed to fall open in my hands.”

Braskie turned to D’Agosta. “Now, at last, there’s something useful you can do. Go plug that hole, Sergeant. And report back to me at eleven o’clock sharp. We need to talk. And as for you, sir, I will escort you off the premises.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

D’Agosta looked with dismay at the retreating form of Lieutenant Braskie, with Pendergast strolling along behind him, hands in the pockets of his baggy surfer shorts, head tilted back as if taking the air.

2. What do you consider the best film adaptation from a book? What do you think is the worst film adaptation? I have a tie for the best: To Kill a Mockingbird and Seabiscuit The Worst: Along Came a Spider (a really good book in the Alex Cross series by James Patterson but a below-average film)

3. What is the first book you remember reading? Other than picture books, it was Charlotte’s Web.

4. Did you have a favorite kids’ book as a child? The Monster at the End of this Book. My mom read that one to me often! You have to enjoy lovable, furry old Grover being inadvertently afraid of himself.

5. What book did you hate reading for a school assignment? I’ll say Beowulf, even though it is actually an epic poem.

6. What is the most recent book you read (or are currently reading)? Lost by Michael Robotham. It’s a good thriller so far.

7. What book would you most like to see turned into a movie?

8. What book did you cheat and read the “Cliff Notes” version? I know I did this a time or two. I want to say I did for Shakespeare’s King Lear. I hope no one can take collage credits away from me now.

9. What book would you never read again, no matter how much someone was going to pay you? I’m not counting ones I couldn’t finish. I’ll go with The Camel Club by Baldacci. It’s not that it’s terrible; I just expected more from him. I felt this one jumped the shark a little.

10. Are you more of a library or book store person? I like both, but the library is the best.

11. Have you tried audio books? Do you like them? I use them all the time while driving for my job. They are great. However, I have difficulty staying focused enough to keep track of an audio book if it’s something really complex, like a novel that takes place all over the world (for example, R. Ludlum).

12. Has any movie ever inspired you to then read the book on which it was based? Yes. The Bone Collector is one.

13. Describe a passage from a book that made you cry. The surprise ending of The Wedding by N. Sparks. It’s the sequel to The Notebook.

14. What is your favorite book series? Again, I love the Pendergast novels by D. Preston and L. Child. You have to try them.

15. Describe your favorite place to read. Near the river or on a beach when the weather is just right. If there is a pretty girl (like my wife) to glance at from time to time, that’s even better.





Redneck Woman vs. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (Or Apples vs. Oranges)

12 01 2008

Is it just me, or is it a bit farcical how differently we judge song writers and book writers. I realize songs and books are different entities (duh) and that some will no doubt complain that I am comparing apples to oranges or plums or dried apricots, but I still find it intriguing how different the standards are (not counting some of those awful, cheesy romance novels). Let’s take a peek at excerpts from a few popular books, some classic, some recent.

“It was a wrong number that started it, the telephone ringing three times in the dead of night, and the voice on the other end asking for someone he was not.” Paul Auster, City of Glass

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly-fishing.”
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

“Nothing contributes so much to tranquillize the mind as a steady purpose.” Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“Anything could happen when you were with Jimmy. If he was aware there were rules — in the subway, on the streets, in a movie theater — he never showed it.” Dennis Lehane, Mystic River

“This would be a slow death. Her father was right, she must have been the worst of sinners.” Jonis Agee, The River Wife

“What happened next transpired in seconds. Everything does, if you think about it” Laura Lippman, What the Dead Know

Great stuff. Now, let’s check out some lyrics from popular songs of different genres (with the artist, not necessarily the writer, listed for the sake of easy recognition).

“I’m attracted to ya ’cause you give me love, and sweetheart, Color Me Badd is gonna sex you up.” Color Me Badd, I Wanna Sex You Up

“In a second you’ll be wrapped around my finger
‘Cause I can, cause I can do it better
There’s no other, so when’s it gonna sink in
She’s so stupid, what the hell were you thinking?” Avril Lavigne, Girlfriend

“She can handle any champagne brunch
A bridal shower with Bacardi punch
Jello shooters full of Smirnoff
But tequila makes her clothes fall off.” Joe Nichols, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off

“Meat-eating orchids forgive no one just yet
Cut myself on Angel Hair and baby’s breath
Broken hymen of your highness I’m left black
Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back.” Nirvana, Heart-Shaped Box

“Everyone’s looking to see if it was you
Everyone wants you to come through
Everyone’s hoping it’ll all work out
Everyone’s waiting they’re holding out.” Loverboy, Working for the Weekend

“Nasty put some clothes on, I told ya
Don’t walk out your house without no clothes on, I told ya.” Destiny’s Child, Nasty Girl

“You see I feel sad when you’re sad
I feel glad when you’re glad
If you only knew what I’m going through
I just can’t smile.” Barry Manilow/Carpenters, Can’t Smile Without You

Before I go any further, let me say that I like these a few of these songs. I know what some of you are thinking. Songs are just about having fun, being in a certain mood, or communicating plain old attitude. I get that; I love music. That said, come on people. Surely we can get some better lyrics without losing the fun and attitude.

Sex you up? This is an excellent example of a “music will have to do until I can get home to watch some porn” song.

Meat eating orchids? This brings to mind that weird kid in high school who liked to say nonsensical stuff because he/she was terrified to actually try to carry on a normal conversation.

Nasty put some clothes on. This one really needs no comment.

The Barry Manilow/Carpenters one? Did the credited writers really write that, or did they raid a stack of 7th grade poems from a teacher’s desk at Our Lady of the Divine Gag Me With a Spoon. Can’t you see a kid asking his dad what rhymes with sad?

I realize there are some really good lyrics out there, but you have to admit the radio dial is filled with drivel. Song writers of the world, I am pointing a finger at you and begging you to at least give an effort. I’m not asking you to hit the ball out of the park every time, but at least quit bunting.

What if our book writers had been allowed to live by the same standards? Would Romeo have said to Juliet, “I’ll take you to the candy shop; I’ll let you lick the lollipop?” Would Little Women instead be titled, Little Hos? Would those famous first lines of A Tale of Two Cities instead read: “It was fun, but it sucked at the same time. Some were smart, but some were just freaking numb nuts. Some people thought there was something to believe in while others were like, umm, I don’t think so.”

Maybe I’m asking too much, but I just don’t want to live in a world where an Anne Rice vampire sequel is called, “Oops, I bit it again.”








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