Love Blurbs From Grandmothers

Before dashing out to get crispy carnitas from El Taco Grullense on Middlefield Road, self would like to leave dear blog readers with a last image from Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s book:


Still on Story # 1 because it’s hilarious!

“Let’s just look at the silver eggs,” I say, a sentence that immediately vaults to the top of the Dumbest Things I’ve Ever Said chart, barely edging out “Can I get it extra spicy?” and “I liked the way your hair looked before.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Currently Reading: Second Sunday of December (2012)

It is a beautiful, sunny day.  Jennie and son have decided to sleep in.  Just as well, for they have a long drive ahead of them:  they are heading back to Claremont today, boo.

But, first there will be brunch!

Self keeps herself occupied by reading.  Her current book is Ruth Rendell’s The Monster in the Box.

Self’s first Ruth Rendell mystery was Thirteen Steps Down, and it was absolutely fascinating, a novel told from the point of view of a murderer.  The main character (the murderer) did not have as spectacular a psyche as, say, Hannibal Lecter or others of his ilk, but was rather a run-of-the-mill sad sack who had no idea that he was capable of murder —  that is, until he finally went and did it (more out of pique than, even, of anger).  Self would never have thought she would be quite so engaged.  Anyhoo, after that book, self added Rendell to her list of favorite crime writers, a list that includes Henning Mankell, Karin Fossum, Morag Joss, and Arnaldur Indridason (She also recently added a new name to the list:  Colin Harrison, whose thriller The Finder self read in Paris, during the few days she spent in a friend’s apartment, in July)

The Monster in the Box is again about a twisted soul, but this time we are in the point of view of a decent man, a recurring character in Rendell’s books, an Inspector Wexford.  Self has not yet been able to pinpoint his age, as —  despite her best efforts —  she is still only on p. 76 (and she began the book about a week ago).

But that’s OK!  Because self finished the novel she is reviewing, and she worked hard on her novel-in-progress, and son came two days ago with Jennie, and various other exciting things happened, which will keep on happening, self is sure, until the end of the holidays.

Casting a glance at the blurbs on the back of the book, self finds this by P. D. James:  “She has transcended her genre by her remarkable imaginative power to explore and illuminate the dark corners of the human psyche.”

Hear, hear!

And here’s something from Marilyn Stasio, the crime columnist for the New York Times Book Review:

“Ruth Rendell is my dream writer.  Her prose style, so intricate in design and supple in execution, has the disquieting intimacy of an alien touch in the dark.”

Again, hear, hear.  Turning, now, to one of self’s recent posts, she finds that a lot of people are viewing the post about  Naguib Mahfouz, the one in which she quoted from an issue of The Economist (September 2, 2006).  It is quite clear, after re-reading that obituary, that Mahfouz was a writer of place.  Quoting from The Economist:

. . . he was born, in 1911, in Gamaliya, a 1,000-year-old quarter whose densely packed and labyrinthine lanes were overhung by balconies that blotted out the daylight.  By the time he was six his father, a local merchant, had done well enough for himself to join the flight of Cairo’s burgeoning middle class to the airier, more modern parts of town.  But Mr. Mahfouz never lost his love of the Old City.  Many of his most pungent novels were set there and drew their titles from it:  Zuqaq al Midaq (Midaq Alley), Al Sukariya (Sugar Street).

Truly, your earliest memories never fail you.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Art of the Double Cross

As regular readers of this blog well know, self has been reading Ben Macintyre’s World War II espionage saga, Agent Zigzag (There is a fantastic blurb by John Le Carré on the front cover.  But, even without this blurb, self would have known Macintyre would deliver a ripping good yarn.  His poignant The Englishman’s Daughter is still one of her favorite nonfiction books of all time).  Here, on p. 133 of Agent Zigzag is a succinct elaboration of what makes a “double agent” succeed.  Self loves this passage because it contains the word “verisimilitude.”

It was an article of faith among the double cross team that a double agent should, as far as possible, live the life the Germans believed he was living, and do the things he claimed to be doing.  Masterman called this “the principle of verisimilitude, the imperative necessity of making the agent actually experience all that he professes to have done.”  It is far easier, under interrogation, to tell part of the truth than to sustain a latticework of pure lies.  If Chapman was going to pretend to have blown up the De Havilland factory,then he must go and case the joint, precisely as he would if he were genuinely bent on sabotage.

P. S.  The De Havilland Mosquito was an aircraft built entirely of balsa wood that was capable of carrying up to 4,000 lbs. of ordinance from Britain to Berlin.  It was a particular thorn in the side of Commander of the Luftwaffe Herman Goring.  It appears that Goring was reviewing a military parade in Berlin when the occasion was hastily interrupted by the arrival of Mosquitos from the 105th. Thus, the De Havilland factory was a prime target of Germany’s ace spies.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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