Weekend Miscellany: Richard III, Lit Crit, Lit-Blogs, and Zombies

At the Globe and Mail books site, Margaret Cannon reviews a new Ricardian novel that sounds like it might be a fun addition to my collection: A Secret Alchemy, by Emma Darwin (“yes, an offshoot of that Darwin”).

Also at the Globe and Mail, P. D. James answers readers’ questions; here’s a reply that is pertinent to the discussion I’m having in my class on mystery and detective fiction about Golden Age puzzle mysteries and their limitations:

P.D. James I agree that few contemporary mysteries concentrate on logical deduction from physical clues. This was much more popular in the so-called Golden Age of Agatha Christie. Today we concentrate more on clues arising from character. In The Private Patient, Dalgliesh discovers such clues when he visits the victim’s house and has access to her papers. Even so, I doubt whether he would have been able to make an arrest if the killer hadn’t acted so spectacularly at the end of the book. But what does remain important is fair play. The reader who concentrates on solving the mystery should never be left feeling that some vital information was available to the detective and not to him. We should never need to ask, “How on earth was I expected to know that?” But I think that today, for many readers, solving the crime is less important than being engaged in an enthralling and well-written novel.

At (or in, depending on your medium) the TLS, Josh Cohen reviews Enthusiast!, by David Herd:

Woven into the book’s readings is a potent polemic against the assault daily perpetrated against enthusiasm by the bureaucratic mindset of the modern university. The imposition on literary study of alien measures of output, quality and aims blocks creative modes of circulation and exchange, insinuating bureaucracy into the very heart of the pedagogic relationship.

At Blographia Literaria, Andrew Seal has some interesting reflections on tendencies in ‘lit-blogging,’ particularly about the way its strengths (“the diversity of its members and the diversity of their interests, the ability to stage open-ended dialogues or discussion”) could be channelled to do more than increase awareness and thus choice. Perhaps, he proposes, lit-bloggers could provide more guidance, or at least more reasons for different choices:

Instead of just aggregating choice, we can aggregate real knowledge; instead of bald lists which give the reader lots of options which she must sort out, an actual attempt to create something which will help a reader understand how to go about ordering a set of names or titles, how to turn a reading list into knowledge.

The Little Professor helps us see the full potential of adding zombies (though I admit I share Steven Beattie’s feeling that this may be going too far.)

At the Guardian, Ian McEwan writes eloquently on John Updike:

The Updike opus is so vast, so varied and rich, that we will not have its full measure for years to come. We have lived with the expectation of his new novel or story or essay so long, all our lives, that it does not seem possible that this flow of invention should suddenly cease. We are truly bereft, that this reticent, kindly man with the ferocious work ethic and superhuman facility will write for us no more.

(And yet the excerpts he quotes fail to persuade me to read more Updike than I have already.)

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