Duck Duck Book

57 – a recommendation
11.3.2008, 7:34 pm
Filed under: literature, misc.

Since you’re reading this, I’m fairly sure you’re interested in books and information — and more particularly, that you appreciate recommendations about what to read next or thoughts about why a book, an article, or a film is interesting, how it connects to the rest of the world of literature, what it promises, and whether these promises are delivered on. You must, or why would you be reading Duck Duck Book? And so. I am pleased to recommend that you visit another couple of places where you can get suggestions about what to read and why: Multnomah County Library’s two new blogs, News Notes and An Embarrassment of Riches.

(Before I get one step further I must disclaim: as you know I work at Multnomah County Library as a reference librarian. So I’m biased in favor of these two blogs. And further, I am one of the authors of News Notes, which makes me even more biased in its favor. Now that I have confessed, I will go on to describe the joys of reading about reading in these particular spots, and you may judge the size of the grain of salt you need to take with my enthusiasm.)

News Notes recommends books and other diversions inspired by current news stories — sometimes providing an avenue for background research or suggesting reading that can help you put the news in context — and sometimes offering more of a stream-of-consciousness beginning with a bit of news, and moving on to whatever comes next in the mind of a librarian.

An Embarrassment of Riches is something of a free-for-all — it opens a little window into the minds of dozens of library staff people who share intelligent observations about a broad range of literature. As its authors say, An Embarrassment of Riches alerts readers to “the best of what the library has to offer.”

Take a look at both; my guess is that you’ll find some surprises.


addendum to number 38
11.10.2006, 8:39 pm
Filed under: misc.

Dear Readers,
One of the fascinating side benefits of having an archive of this list in blog form is that WordPress keeps statistics for me. So I can go and look at which review gets the most hits (Tijuana bibles, from number 23 wins every time, of course!), what webpages referred people to mine, and my favorite — the search engine terms that led to results people used to find my site. Here’s a sampling of some of the best from recent weeks:

  • garish appearance with schizophrenics
  • number 11 strange
  • “What is it with these white people?”
  • famous librarian to write about
  • economic importance of mt. hood
  • Orwell 1946 + “chicken soup”
  • strange celeb deaths
  • work sheet for grade one from work book
  • how to remove deer poop stain?
  • arkady renko in love

and of course there are always many searches for things having to do with ducks:

  • how does a mother duck show affection?
  • different kinds of ducks ducks
  • duck stories mythical
  • ducks on telephone wires
  • duck cheese space novel

‘Nuf said. I hope you enjoy this issue’s reviews.

16 – detective novels
04.6.2005, 12:05 am
Filed under: fiction, misc.

A general comment on detective novels:

The best and most captivating of fictional detectives types work like one imagines real detectives do — by some opaque and stultifying process, which may or may not be an actual strategy. Reading the story, it often seems like the detective is just doing whatever comes into her head, and it’s hard to see the method in the madness.

I have never understood what V.I. Warshawski or John Constantine or Kate Fansler or Arkady Renko or Philip Marlowe are thinking when they make a move — I’m always thinking things like, “No, no, are you crazy, don’t go to the small town police station and confront the local cops! They’ll beat you up!” And then I’m right and the detective gets the shit kicked out of her, but she shakes it off and the mystery is solved in the end anyway.

I understand that there are many kinds of work which are absolutely opaque to people who don’t know them from the inside. And I do not understand what detectives do. I know that a lot of what they do is boring research (which I do understand, believe me), but when it comes to the action, I’m completely in the dark. Any method, strategy, or professional practice that a detective might employ would naturally be completely foreign to me.

So I’ve been thinking, perhaps what makes these excellent but completely imaginary detectives seem so real is just this — they’re written so that their actions don’t seem logical. And the actions of real detectives, I bet they’d seem illogical to me too. No, I cannot think like Kate Fansler, or like Arkady Renko. Not at all. Which may be why I love them so much.

[I don’t mean to be a hopeless name-dropper. V.I. Warshawski is a Chicago private eye written by Sara Paretsky; John Constantine is an English trenchcoat-wearing magician featured in the comic book Hellblazer and in other comics by many different authors, but created originally by Alan Moore for the series Swamp Thing; Kate Fansler is professor of literature and amateur murder-solver living in New York City and written by Amanda Cross, nom de plume of the late and great Carolyn Heilbrun; Arkady Renko is a sometime Moscow police detective written by Martin Cruz Smith; and Philip Marlowe, who should be familiar to you all, is the archetypal hard-boiled detective written by Raymond Chandler, also late and also very great.]