2016: 109.-112. Four Over Due Library Books

So… I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, as I’ve undergone a big old surgery that totally sapped my energy to do anything but sit on the couch and moan.  Whenever I go under the knife (and this was number six), I always imagine that I’ll spend the recovery doing all this writing and being totally productive, and I always end up doing nothing but sleeping.  I was too zonked to even binge watch.  But I’m back, and despite my laziness I actually did quite a bit of reading, so my backlog is huge.  My husband said I either had to get back on the blog horse, or give up and put the books away, as my desk is starting to explode.  Give up blogging? After 11 years (with some gaps)?? Never!! So, here I am.

The first thing I thought I’d better do is some housekeeping on a whole bunch of library books that I read in October, and then renewed when I was in the hospital, and then forgot to return, accumulating $0.55 in fines! I KNOW.  Shocking.  So, to the extent I can still remember what they are about, here are five random books I took out of the library two months ago.

109. If  You Ask Me, Libby Gelman-Waxner

So, I have this thing where I love to read old movie reviews, and will totally take out collections of them.  I was in the Hollywood section, and saw a book that was “reviews from Premiere magazine” and I figured, oh, that was the ‘90s when I used to see everything (back when my mom would take out three new movies every week from the video store), so why not? And then I started reading them, and they were BONKERS.  They were written by Libby Gelman-Waxner, a totally stereotypical upper West Side lady, with a penchant for hunks, and for writing about her husband the orthodontist.  What the hell, thought I (well, actually I thought, WTF)? After about six reviews I broke down and googled, and found, that, actually, they were written by Paul Rudnick, playwright and screenwriter (Addams Family Values, In & Out), satirizing a deranged Manhatten trophy wife.  Which made a hell of a lot more sense, and made them more entertaining, too.  Rudnick got to say mean (and some true) things about Hollywood movies, and make fun of a certain strata of woman.  Which was also a little mean-spirited, and the jokes at Libby’s expense are pretty cheap, but at least I understood why it got published.  Cannot really recommend this - it’s pretty far down a 1995 rabbit hole.  But now you, too, know it exists.

110. Fiasco, James Robert Parish 

A much more satisfying Hollywood book, this book examines a number of Hollywood’s biggest flops, chapter by chapter and tells, with reasonably good gossipy tone, just what happened.  We are talking Ishtar, Paint Your Wagon, Cleopatra, Bonfire of the Vanities, Cutthroat Island. Stinkers, all.  Parish does a nice job balancing a straightforward tale of what went wrong with a little snark, and goes to show how movies can really, really go astray.  (HINT - having better sets than scripts usually helps).  You’d like this if you like behind the scenes Hollywood books.  I do, so I did.

109.

111. Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane, Paul Thomas Murphy

As you will see, I next wandered from the film section of the library to the true crime section.  If you read the blog, you’ll know that I have a penchant for historical true crime novels, the Victorian-er the better, and so this was a no-brainer for me.  It was satisfying.  It’s the story of a working lass named Jane who was found cruelly murdered.  Her employer was tried for the crime, but acquitted - largely because of shoddy police work.  There was a great deal of outrage among working people about the acquittal, and Jane became, for a while, a cause celebre.  And then, of course, we all forgot, and hence the book.  Murphy is a good writer, telling a story without being either dull, or so preposterous that we can’t believe it - his sources make sense.  And he does a reasonably good job tying the crime to a larger social issue - the slow emergence of the working class as somewhat of a political force.  It’s not the best book like this I’ve ever read (reminder, that books is The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale and you should all go read it ASAP), but it was well done and entertaining.  A yes for true crime fans.

FINALLY

112. The Secret Poisoner: A Century of Murder, Linda Stramann

Oh, I was super excited about this one, particularly because it had a sticker that it was a BBC2 book club book.  All I can say is that the British TV public must be much more determined that I, because I could barely get through it.  I thought a history of poison as a murder drug would be very interesting.  And it was, in the patches where they talked about famous poisoning cases.  But the book is really about the science of poisoning, or, more particularly, the science of how they figured out how to test for poisons, and particularly the disagreements that various authorities had as they figured out legal tests and so forth.  Basically a 19th century battle of experts.  And it was dull.  I just didn’t care about who wrote which treatise and which superceeded which and I kept skipping head to the murder parts.  Which probably makes me a ghoul, but so be it.  Not recommended.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017