It’s officially 2022, so time to start reading all those books that came in for Christmas. The picture accompanying this blog is of the stack of books Robin and Santa put under the tree. He’s got a pretty good nose for interesting titles. A couple are “cozy” mysteries, which is his way of saying he wants me to write one. Hmm.
“Pachinko”, Min Jin Lee, 496 pages, Fiction
Robin found this one for my birthday. I wouldn’t have picked it but I’m glad he did. It’s the saga of a Korean family and their lives in Japanese occupied Korea (before there was a North or South) and later in Japan. It spans most of the twentieth century. It’s very readable, a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award. I’d call it historical fiction, light on the history. Author “shows” a lot but for readers not up on twentieth century Japanese and Korean history and current day Japanese antipathy towards non-Japanese Asians, there are some gaps. I guess I’ll be after a good non-fiction survey of this region after I make a dent in Santa’s pile.
“The Thursday Murder Club”, Richard Osman, 384 pages, Fiction
I’d heard about this title a while ago but somehow it got past me. Santa brought this for Christmas and it was the first one I pulled off the pile. I guess you might call this a “cozy” mystery but it’s better plotted, better written and more complex than most of the genre. In fact, it’s a lovely story of a group of retirement home residents who meet to solve murders. The murders aren’t particularly gruesome if that’s a concern. The characters, in their seventies and eighties, wear their age as their cloak of invisibility to get the information they want. No fancy karate moves, no bombs, no deadeye dick like shooting, just using their different life and occupational skills to get results. Osman's warmth for the characters in the retirement home is charming. Better get started on this soon as Osman’s written another one, “The Man Who Died Twice” with a third on the way in the fall.
“No One is Talking About This”, Patricia Lockwood, 210 (small) pages, genre: hmm
This book is hot in the book world. That doesn’t mean you’ll like it, it just means that the literati who review these things just love it. It’s written by Patricia Lockwood who wrote the very well received (by the same reviewers) memoir “PriestDaddy” about growing up in a household where her father, after marrying and having several children, became a priest (and kept the family). I read that one a year ago and recognized her name when “No One…” came out. I think I’ll need to provide a little more information than I usually would about this book.
It’s written in two parts. Part One is comprised of seven “chapters” totaling about one hundred pages of small paragraphs interspersed with lots of white space. Of course, sometimes the paragraph is just one sentence—and a short sentence at that. I guess there’s a story here somewhere but I had trouble figuring it out. I believe she meant to write this part to resemble the general confusion in your brain if you spent too much time on social media. Well, that worked. Most of the paragraphs referenced real events and people in her life, so I’m not sure where the “novel” lies.
The second part is the unbearably sad yet true story of her younger sister’s pregnancy. Her sister’s daughter was diagnosed in utero with Proteus Syndrome which has been diagnosed only 200 times since its naming. It causes the bones (in this case) to grow out of proportion to the rest of the body. The second part does not have a happy beginning, middle or ending, but Lockwood’s writing poignantly tells this story from diagnosis to death.
It’s called a novel, but I believe it would be more accurate to call this book novel. It does not take long to read but it is very worthwhile.
“True Detective” (Season 1) HBO MAX. Eight hour long episodes chronicling two Louisiana State Police detectives as they follow the trail of a serial killer in the bayou. Stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. It took us eight weeks to watch this. We could only handle one hour a week. Very tough to watch but excellent acting, writing and production. Yikes
Glad to see “Mrs. Maisel” will be back on Netflix in February, and amazingly enough, a new production of “Law & Order” (NBC) starts in February as well. I’m still looking for the final episodes of “Endeavor” (PBS) which are promised soon.