Monday, 28 January 2013

in media res

1. Depending on how obsessed you are with being a Hudson completist, you can listen to Open Book with me discussing The Dazzle, by going here; and, if you are reasonably quick, you can sign up to this Thursday's Tall Tales by emailing talltalesnight at hotmail.

2. Many writers, of all different stamps, fetishise Donald Westlake, and particularly the Parker books. This isn't because he is the greatest novelist, but because he is an absolutely fantastic craftsmen. Let's not get into craft versus art - the former is much more fashionable at the moment, but you always need both to be really good - but do read Michael Weinreib's take on him here. I have never read Westlake's comic novels. I really want to, now.

My favourite Parker opening, and I've not read half the books, and it's not a flashy one or anything, is from The Green Eagle Score:

Parker looked at the beach and there was a guy in a black suit standing there, surrounded by all the bodies in bathing suits. He was standing near Parker's gear, not facing anywhere in particular, and he looked like a rip in the picture.

3. And while we're in a Grantland mood, this is Brian Phillips on beautiful athletes. I bloody love Brian Phillips. I love this essay. But I don't quite agree with it. He says that Beckham is always defined by his beauty and needs people to stare, even in the midst of the game. Sharapova sometimes isn't, and doesn't. I don't think Beckham is this self-conscious. Also, I think that our aesthetics see sweating exertion as fully in keeping with male beauty but not really with feminine beauty.

4. Did you see Africa last week? How come the whole world is not talking about the kingfish section? I am not sure I have ever seen anything as crazy on a wildlife documentary. In case you missed it, David A chatted a bit about giant kingfish, otherwise giant trevally, and said they were mainly solitary apex predators, the size of a man, but they periodically gathered in groups and swim up big rivers. Ok so far. I mean, we know about salmon. They plod up, rather sedately, in a school. Then, at a certain point, they stop and start swimming in circles.

They are not doing this for mating purposes, and they don't hunt. We have absolutely no idea what they are up to.

A hundred massive fish swimming in neat circles, and then swimming back down to sea? It's incredible. Are they aliens? Are they being controlled by aliens who want to see if humans' capacity for wonder is all used up? What is going on here? I really, really want to know. The programme just pootled on with a 'it's just one of those things' line. Even more downplayed than that. Well, I have thought of little else for the two days since I saw it.

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