Teaser Tuesdays — “The Historian As Detective — Essays on Evidence”

Posted in Rediscovered, Teaser Tuesday with tags , , on August 7, 2012 by JE Cornett

“Of course, pornography, scatalogical political pamphlets, and heretical religious tracts are not the only kinds of material that have a tendency to disappear from the public eye. ”

Now you know why I carefully archive all the little religious tracts I find.

That’s a tiny dose of one of my favorite books of all time, The Historian As DetectiveEssays on Evidence, edited by one Robin Winks.

It’s Teaser Tuesday, but it could just as easily be Treasure Tuesday. The Historian As Detective is so little known as to be the quintessential buried literary treasure. So little known, in fact, that neither Amazon or Goodreads has a synopsis for the book, although Google, in the trash-collecting way it has, does. Here’s what the almighty Google Books has to say about The Historian As Detective:

Essays by noted historians of the past and present, on the problems of investigation, offer a series of intriguing case studies in the relationship between historical research and detective fiction.

Yes, and no. The problems of investigation are indeed covered, as are intriguing case studies, but the detective fiction link is murky. What Winks does is illuminate the sometimes-shadowy way the history we’re given is constructed, how historians, much like detectives, sift through mountains of evidence — complete with red herrings, unreliable witnesses, liars and blackguards, just like in a police procedural — to arrive at an acceptable narrative that explains the past.

If it sounds dry and dusty, it’s not, although any copy of The Historian As Detective that you purchase is likely to be. The book has been out of print for decades, despite the fact that Winks, an historian himself (naturally), is a prolific author. It’s a book that’s ripe for rediscovery.

I came by my copy at a Goodwill, enticed by this glorious late 1960s/early 1970s cover:

I’ll readily admit that I did not expect to enjoy The Historian As Detective half as much as I did, but I found that I could not put it down. From essays about the Kennedy assassination to the problem of forged documents, it’s a fascinating read, and worth looking up.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!


Teaser Tuesdays — “Shallow Rewards: Commentaries on Pop 2005-2012”

Posted in Music, Teaser Tuesday with tags , , on July 31, 2012 by JE Cornett

“Critiquing the past is a fool’s game — icons are neutered by irony and revisionism, dug up and spat upon by snide pundits — but albums like Secret Messages are exactly the kind of bloated, mortifying excess that justify the practice.”

Ouch. That’s Chris Ott discussing a shelved record by my belovedELO (Electric Light Orchestra, for you knaves). The passage is from his book Shallow Rewards: Commentaries on Pop 2005-2012. Curious?

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:

A compilation of the author’s views on pop music memorabilia and music culture in the digital age.

That was deep, wasn’t it? And that’s exactly what the book is. I don’t know why I bought it. After all, Ott has the gall to emasculate and castigate MY BELOVED ELO. But I actually liked it.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

No, Really: “Killer Joe” Is an Adult Film

Posted in Media, Really with tags , , on July 27, 2012 by JE Cornett

Your baby does not need to see “Killer Joe,” okay?

Today in omg-r-u-srs, this from the Associated Press’ Sandy Cohen:

The MPAA says on its website that an NC-17-rated film “is one that, in the view of the Rating Board, most parents would consider patently too adult for their children 17 and under.”

That’s certainly true of “Killer Joe,” which opens in New York on Friday and other major cities next week. The MPAA says it contains “graphic disturbing content involving violence and sexuality, and a scene of brutality.”

Adapted from the stage by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tracy Letts, it’s a story about a small-time drug dealer (Emile Hirsch) who hires a cop moonlighting as a hit-man (Matthew McConaughey) to kill his mother for her life-insurance benefits, and offers his virgin sister as collateral. It’s adult material.

Shew. I’m glad I saw that before I took someone else’s baby to see Killer Joe.
And yes, that’s my emphasis on my favorite new phrase, “it’s adult material.”

Book Beginnings Friday: Know Nothing by Mary Lee Settle

Posted in Book Beginnings Friday, Literature with tags , , on July 27, 2012 by JE Cornett

Uncle Telemachus told about water and women, how they sank a man, weak soft, tears and water, rot and win. He said so. He said, “Ifn the river don’t git ye, a woman will…”

Alright, alright. That’s three lines. But those last two were just too good to pass up.

That’s the first three lines from Mary Lee Settle’s Know Nothing, which I am re-reading after several years. It’s even better this time around, I do believe.

Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of Google Books:

Set in the decades preceding the Civil War, this third volume of The Beulah Quintet – Mary Lee Settle’s unforgettable generational saga about the roots of American culture, class, and identity and the meaning of freedom – tells the tragic tale of Peregrine Catlett and his second son, Johnny. The year 1837 brings a host of perils to the verdant Virginia valley where Peregrine, a third-generation American, is the owner of Beulah. Amid financial panic, debate over the abolition of slavery, and mounting tension between North and South, Peregrine considers freeing his slaves but believes that, with his children scattered, his only hope of retaining his livelihood rests on the use of slave labor. Tied to the land by a special bond, Johnny returns to his father’s farm but stays only until the outbreak of hostilities. As a Confederate soldier, Johnny is aware of the tragedy to come. But family ties outweigh convictions, and he ends up fighting in the war with disastrous results.

A little about the Beulah Quintet — it is a series of five novels that includes (in order) Prisons, O Beulah Land, Know Nothing, The Scapegoat and The Killing Ground. Saga is a better term for the Beulah books, which follow a sprawling West Virginia family from the English Civil Wars, through the American Revolution and the Civil War up to the miners’ strikes in 20th Century West Virginia coalfields.

Know Nothing is gorgeous, literary historical fiction, with an emphasis on literary; while her reputation has diminished in the past few years, Settle is recognized as one of the best American writers of the mid-century period.

Each book of the Beulah Quintet stands alone, by the way, so there’s no need to worry about jumping in in the middle of something if you’re interested in Know Nothing.

Know Nothing

Mary Lee Settle

Univ of South Carolina Press, 1960

So – what are you reading?

And thanks to the Rose City Reader for coming up with this great Friday idea!

Where You Find It: The Best Cease-and-Desist Letter Ever

Posted in Book News, Media, Where You Find It with tags , , , on July 25, 2012 by JE Cornett

Who says the art of letter writing is dead? This cease-and-desist letter from Jack Daniel’s’ rep Christy Susman, asking writer Patrick Wensink to stop using a Jack Daniel’s label-style image on the front of his book Broken Piano For President, is a thing of beauty and a joy forever (click on the letter, then click again for a larger, readable version):

Via: The Atlantic Monthly

Teaser Tuesdays — “Through a Glass Darkly”

Posted in Teaser Tuesday with tags , , on July 24, 2012 by JE Cornett

“But here, it was different. She was ashamed, and shame was a new emotion to her–scalding and corrosive, like wormwood. Please come soon, she prayed, her thoughts going out the window, into the square, past the cobbled, dirty, busy streets, somewhere into the great, throbbing city she had yet to see.”

That, babies, is a little bite of Through a Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen. Don’t you want to know more?

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of Goodreads:

Karleen Koen’s sweeping saga contains unforgettable characters consumed with passion: the extraordinarily beautiful fifteen-year-old noblewoman, Barbara Alderley; the man she adores, the wickedly handsome Roger MontGeoffry; her grandmother, the duchess, who rules the family with cunning and wit; and her mother, the ineffably cruel, self-centered and licentious Diana. Like no other work, Through a Glass Darkly is infused with intrigue, sweetened by romance and awash in the black ink of betrayal.

Have mercy!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just open your current read to a random page and share a few sentences. Be careful not to include spoilers!

Book Beginnings Friday: Still Life With Murder by P.B. Ryan

Posted in Book Beginnings Friday with tags , , , on July 20, 2012 by JE Cornett

Here’s how it works: post the first line of the book you’re currently reading, and why it caught your fancy!

Here’s mine, from P.B. Ryan’s Still Life With Murder:

“It’s going to be a bad one.” Dr. Greaves said it so quietly that Nell, sitting across from him in the Hewitts’ glossy black brougham, almost didn’t hear him.

Now if that’s not an auspicious beginning for a mystery, I don’t know what is. Suffice to say it drew me in. If you’re interested, here’s the Goodreads synopsis:

Young Irish immigrant Nell Sweeney is governess for the adopted daughter of wealthy Bostonians Viola and August Hewitt. Nell has become a favorite confidant of Viola. The pair had four grown sons, the eldest two thought to have died in Andersonville during the Civil War. A visit from a family friend changes all that with news that sets in motion a chain of events that has the potential to restore this torn family or to destroy it forever. The news that August receives is that his eldest son Will is still very much alive, though he might not be for long–Will Hewitt sits in jail accused of having slashed a man’s throat during an opium rage. Nell and Viola set out to prove Will’s innocence and catch the true criminal…

So – what are you reading?

And thanks to the Rose City Reader for coming up with this great Friday idea!