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Thoughts after reading a book…

The book I read is called The Witch of Lime Street, Seance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World and is written by David Jaher. It’s about a Boston society woman who claimed to be a medium but was successfully debunked (more or less) by Houdini and others.

limestreet.jpgSo, I’m just pouring a few thoughts onto the page because they occurred to me and appealed to my ruminating mind strongly enough that I wanted to share, should anyone be interested in reading them.

First, I sailed through the book. It’s interesting material for many different reasons.

Second, ‘sailed’ may be true in the sense that I read the book pretty quickly, but it took effort because there was something in the wordiness and construction of the narrative that had to be dealt with. Also, the writer had a way of referring to something before naming it, and then identifying the name. This is a device writers use, of course, and which works often; sorry to say, it didn’t work here, at least for me. Something to do with the unnecessary slog of wordiness that seemed to be trying to be artfulness, but perhaps simplicity may have been better.

Third, as someone mentioned on Goodreads.com, the book managed to be less informative than one would imagine. It was quite detailed, in some cases bogged down with detail about how test seances were conducted. Despite that, it leaves on wondering so many things: how did she actually do the tricks? what was the result of the investigation into the Crandons and the orphans they kept trying to adopt? what about a summary of the ultimate verdicts on the Crandons? She was deluded? She genuinely thought she could channel her brother, but she did tricks to help people believe what she believed to be true? He believed in these paranormal things, and she took a cue from h
im, and then deluded herself?

Fourth, where are the footnoted references? The writer says that the sourcing could take up a book of its own, and I suppose you don’t need footnotes for everything, but maybe a list of the sources that were used in each chapter might be good. There’s a nice list of books at the end, but I would have liked to know where particular facts and information was drawn from.

I wondered further about sourcing when I dipped into another book on Houdini that referenced the Crandons and did a little cross-referencing. Footnotes would have been nice, perhaps, not necessary, but nice.

Fifth, and further on the topic of navigating information, I was trying to remember a few items from the book after finishing it and turned to the index to help me find them, but there were no listings for the key words that might have helped me. For example, I wanted to find the name of the orphan, Horace Newton, who briefly stayed with the Crandons before, apparently, deciding to go back home to England instead of being adopted by them. I couldn’t remember his name, so I tried words that I remembered from that section, like these: Doric, or
phan, adoption. They weren’t there. Finally, I remembered a person’s name, and found that person (DeWyckoff) in the index, which finally helped me find that section.

Regarding the index, another time I looked on a page that was supposed to mention a keyword (according to the index), and it wasn’t there at all. Occasionally, this is the way indexes are, very annoyingly. I imagine they are hard to put together (though today with computers??).

 

Prior to reading this book, I had no idea about this bit of miscellaneous Boston history, so it was nice to learn about it, and the reading was engrossing. It is the kind of book that, both because it is interesting and because it leaves out information, leaves you wanting to investigate the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

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On the fake media outrage, an exceedingly brief commentary…

…because it’s a big topic with lots to say, and I’m just putting a portion of it into a nutshell here.

The thing about this ‘fake media’ outrage is this:

We have a huge problem in that we want to be able to verify information merely by seeing the name of a particular newspaper, or to be able to eschew information merely because of the name of a website. Names equal reputations, I know. But reputations are not always what they are cracked up to me.

So, you read something in The New York Times? Don’t think it hasn’t been through the wrong kind of filter. (Read Unspeakable by Chris Hedges and David Talbot for a former NYT reporter’s take on the NYT.)

Read something on a site you don’t know? That doesn’t mean it isn’t factual info. Or that part of it isn’t.

We need to learn to do MORE than just look at a name to just the validity and legitimacy of information.

 

 

I actually read a Stephen King book.

You could knock me over with a feather. Who thought he’d ever write a book that I’d pick up and read. Writing teachers have said what a great writer he is, and don’t think I wasn’t flummoxed at that info. But, actually, he is. At least, 11/22/63 is great. Unexpected and unusual use of the time travel theme and lots of emotion are two components that, for me, were compelling. I had known that if I tried a King book, this would be it. It was a good pick.

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Oh my, oh my…

Doesn’t the title of Diana Gabaldon’s ninth Outlander book just make you “Oooooh!”?

She has the most fantastic titles.

I had no idea that the title was already out. Or did I? Doesn’t matter because now I have the fun of that discover again. Maybe. Who knows? I’m not really sure.

See the giddy effect bookish news can have on a reader?

 

 

A new trend in mysteries? Let’s hope!

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I used to read lots of mysteries as a kid. You know, Nancy Drews, Trixie Beldens, that sort of thing. Loved living those characters’ lives. For me, it was always more about the people, places, and situations than the mystery plot. But, that could, of course, be quite compelling, too.

As an older person, I haven’t been into them as much. But now I seem to be getting back in. One reason is, perhaps, the new mysteries that Sourcebooks (a publisher that truly seems to put care into its beautiful paperback covers) have released. Seems like there’s 3 different series started, all female detectives. I’ve read only Radha Vatsal’s A Front Page Affair, but I enjoyed it a lot. Again, we have an engaging female detective, young, privileged, smart, who conveys an enviable sense of freedom in a time long ago. There are very authentic-feeling tidbits liberally inserted seamlessly throughout the book telling us about life at the time. The author surely had great fun researching everyday life from primary sources! Vatsal has a fanstastic blog, too, showcasing bit of random wonderful historical information from the early twentieth century era of her novel. As readers know, it’s great fun to go behind the scenes of a novel with its author.

I’m hoping this attention to and fun documenting of nostalgic miscellanea is a new literary trend. It differs from other writers’ attention to historical detail in the delight that seems to be taken in peppering and highlighting the narrative with distinct and distinctive glimpses of the past. Hooray!

And, there are two other series starting that promise engagine female sleuthing protagonists. Haven’t started them yet, but I did amble over to the author websites: I think this love of various and sundry unburied historical delights might, indeed, be a trend. Here’s hoping….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Window Shopping for Booklovers

Do you like to look around the internet and admire those things you would have in your reading dream space but can’t afford? Or fit in? Maybe you like to buy trinkets that highlight your reading interests? This little piece is about decorating for romance readers, and it features mostly reasonable stuff, in terms of price and space.

If anyone has some decorating tips, please share!