Sunday, June 12, 2016

Out and About, Again

Erin joined us as Beth and I went for a walk at Punkatasset Hill. Talk and thought. A moody day of some clouds and much wind. We arrived late morning, and a goodly collection of cars were parked along the road. One car had a sulky teen, by herself, preferring the comfort of her phone.

A woman with leashed brown lab stood at the entrance to the path. The lab was ecstatic to have more new friends, not just us but other people and dogs. This is called a good attitude.

We found two twined snakes by the pond. Clouds and a peppy wind modified the day’s warmer beginning. The smaller snake was I gather a male. They remained motionless, as we tried to be.

Eventually the female stirred. She opened her jaws wide in a way I have never witnessed. Tasting the world? She slithered and the male rode along. You could sense the imperative.

We headed to the bakery after, just for coffee. Among the free books: selected letters of Emily D and an account of the Mayflower crossing by Nathaniel Philbrick. Total score! I just recently finished his account of the sinking of the whale ship Essex. Random grubby detail: capturing sea turtles as additional provender. Because they could survive foodless for two years, they were allowed to. Callousness completes the human experience. At hashtag Trump Anger.

I am some backward about the history of those doughty Puritans Not so pure, I’m sure.Andit is my history, if that records means a thing.

I have read Emily’s letters some but not enough. Her intense and personal vocabulary was a strange and eager possession. Beth said (not verbatim), Had ED not been comfortably positioned in the world, she would have been not have been. A factory drudge or crazy secret. The world hasn‘t changed much in the ensuing years. Outside is even more outside.

Beth had comparison pix to take in Waltham, after we et. Waltham was a working class town in one of its days, factories beside the helpfully rushing Charles River. It has upped its class rating with economic appeal but still has a diverse aspect. Maybe the onward crowd of bathroom protectors will season down to capture. I have no answer to the Trump pit of fear, and fifty dead at a night club, except to say how small the world people are. Where is the music of anger? Oh, right, there aint none.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Early Prophets by Everett Fox

Some fine person keeps putting publisher galleys of recently published books on the give-and-take shelf at the bakery. This book is the latest score. It is a translation of the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. You know, from The Bible, the big important nonsense.

The Bible, incorporated as it is, represents a declining resource for me. I never met a catechism or otherwise had to read or even believe the thing. I felt the point of a moral or spiritual compass, however, and tried to find the flint and tinder supposedly in the book. I mean in the way of a drifty teenager with willing reach. I read most of this bestseller but wow, when Paul shows up in Acts, I am done. You can have your swarthy New Testament. The darkness is of unobserved ignorance, blinders to the heart.

I’ve only started meddling with this new translation. It seems fresh and different. So many ancient texts exist, to explain or at least comfort our sense of existence. The Bible seems to have endured a steroid kiss that makes it perfect in its rebuke.

The compelling stories have been co-opted by the rules committee. We can read The Epic of Gilgamesh as if it came from a curious intent. The Bible has been blown into a correctional institute. The mythic texture has been abandoned for Donald Trump certainty. Just as Donald Trump, the terrible tv show, shouldn’t be alive, neither should this bulwark of fear called King James Version, Ltd.

Fox seems to be on a rescue mission, and I’m for it. He has done his home work, if notes and commentary galore make the case. I aint finished the book but I got the sense that someone was thinking in the process of making it.

I say that because I hate The Bible by the weight it is wielded. Incontrovertible, my ass. At some point, thinking of the Trump horizon, we will need to respond to thinking. Emotion is a distracting gusset, enabling the lizard to pull the plough. We need a more thoughtful response to an ephemeral world. Anger hides fear. Behemoths called stranger, resource, death, worry our daily day. An angry trumpeting brings no cure. True word, it brings no cure.

Bible baby brings nothing if no mind attaches thought. Fearmonger Incorporated has attached his graded face to the scared kid who can’t explain. Maybe this Joshua cat was just another pogrom. Pogroms don’t work because survivours remember. I don’t care about a people, I care about the world. That is to say, we are crowded together, beings of purpose, on a momentary world, and we don’t need the fluffy designs of a ruling committee. The indications of the ancients aren’t cut and dried, they were wondering too. Wonder more, explain less, and look at the fear again.

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

This is an account of the sinking of the Essex, an event that inspired Melville to write Moby Dick. Long ago I read the narrative of Owen Chace (that’s the spelling I remember), one of the few survivours. I recall it fondly, tho the starvation, dehydration, and eventual cannibalism among the survivours doesn’t make for happy thoughts. Philbrick had access to an additional account by a participant, a cabin boy whose account did not come to light till years later. This second voice gives a wider, less defensive view of events.

Philbrick usefully describes the Nantucket whaling industry. I remember how exciting it was to learn about whaling in elementary school. The subject was anything but dry. Nantucket sleighrides, capsized whale boats, peppy shanties, oh my gosh! I always felt kindly towards whales, especially sperm whales in the deep, battling giant squid. These wild exploits amazed me, even as I rooted for the whale.

Criminy, tho, it was an industry. For half a century, these creatures were hunted with growing efficiency. Mostly for the oil that can be extracted from their blubber, to light the human life, with the purer bonanza of spermaceti from sperm whales, for well-oiled watches. Baleen, I believe, went to corsets, and other uses were made. I don’t know if the meat was much used then. Redux would come in the shape of buffaloes. I remember film of modern whalers, with cannons for killing, and some well-tuned factory for the rendering.

And give OSHA a call: rowing out in whaleboats to poke a harpoon into a whale, causing it to wear itself out trying to escape. At which point the mate jabs the lance into the secret portions of life. Cruel is the grip of our economic hosts, that push us to these lengths.

One thin supposition was brought out: that the whale that attacked the Essex may have responded to a noise from the ship. During a hunt, Chace’s whaleboat needed repair. It was brought back to the ship and hammering ensued. Some thought the hammering might have sounded like a male whale to the perp, so the territorial whale attacked. No question whales are smart enough to have reasons for their actions, so I don’t know.

I’m not so keen to read the grisly parts, tho worry not, I’ve read accounts of the Donner party. I would not want to cast a moral shadow because I don’t know my own strength.

I saw ads for a movie version of the book last year. It looked like Hollywood express: vertiginous and suffocating. I’m sure it was one more glistening botch for Ron Howard. Just blitz us shining things of alchemical adrenalin.

When I read William Manchester’s book about the Krupp weapons-making dynasty, I kept thinking of the gouging machines (and people) ripping ore from Alsace-Lorraine, for all those masterful and masterless guns and ordnance and wolfish war.s The invigourated slaughter of the whales brings a similar feeling. The needs that we consider needs, right down to the latest Justin Bieber, dig bigger holes of nothing, this North Atlantic turbine.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


Erin graduated UMass Lowell today. It has been a long yet fruitful road.

The morning began with the typical rush to get ready betimes, which was steadfastly not accomplished, at least not on the schedule we had in mind. Out the door imagining there will be no (general admission) seats left. We picked up our friend Truus and got onto busy Rt. 3.

Beth had asked me to print out the tickets, but I didn’t print them all, so we wondered how we would get everyone in. We had a chance to think about this while waiting in traffic in Lowell centre. It was not really bad traffic, police details were in force, so it moved well enough, given the mass of vehicles.

Within sight of the Paul Tsongas Centre we saw a parking lot still inviting patronage. As far as we were concerned, it was a bargain at twenty bucks, at least since I had twenty one in my wallet. The parking was all cash, a detail not widely bruited. I didn’t mench that it was a summery spring day.

Paul Tsongas story. Years ago, after my grandmother died, my mother, brother and I drove up to Townsend to clear her place out. On the way, we saw Paul Tsongas walking along the road. He was running for representative at the time. Just him and a couple of other people, trudging along, greeting who he may. On our way back, he was still walking. Something real and warm about that, or the memory.

Erin enrobed himself in the parking lot—I know that you can read that (weirdly) in two ways—and bustled off. Beth stuck the coathanger in a bush for later retrieval.

A nervous but organized mob scene at the Tsongas. We went up to the information booth to see what can be done about the lack of tix. The man said, You can come back next year. He quickly added that they can scan Beth’s phone. So that was much easier than expected. Truus and I found contiguous seats while Beth awaited friend Melinda. Melinda helped start the homeschool cooperative where Erin went and has been a mentor to him, and to us as well.

A collection of brass instruments played pleasantly. “Simple Gifts” was a friendly sound. Energy in the place was skyrocket.

I never walked for any of my graduations, and neither did Beth. It was circs for Beth. For me, more like an obtrusive social anxiety. I was psyched to see Erin walk again (previously, his AA).

Bunches of robed people walked in and sat. A sort of drum major with derby and staff commenced the proceedings. Then a trio of bagpipers with drums marched in. Nice!

A chorale group sang the National Anthem. I don’t know who arranged it but it was quite lovely. It began with just women’s voices. The men came in, I think with the bursting bombs, but gently. F. S. Key could see something fragile and beautiful from his vantage, but in the Trumpian, Tea Party present, the answer to Key’s question in the first verse is no. Sorry, but craven and enclosed is the answer now.

Anyway, we could see Erin in the entering mass, he held his hands behind his back as the walked. Provosts, chancellors, presidents, and trustees spoke positively and encouragingly. Marty Meehan had been a US representative for years till be became chancellor then president of the school. I guess he done a good job because UML has grown rapidly in recent years. Likewise, it must be said, tuition. It is a vital school.

Honourary degrees were presented to Chris Cooper, Marianne Leone Cooper, and Judy Woodruff. I don’t argue with any of them, but couldn’t they have selected someone who hasn’t a television show or movie in their cv?

As to the walk, it took some time. Two people were calling out the names, with two lines of recipients. We were admonished not to applaud till the end, which held true for a while. Eventually claques started erupting, and finally everyone got a yelp. Beth and I whooped for Erin.

Three big screens showed the grads as they stepped onto the stage. Beth was locked and loaded for the picture, but neglected to have the camera on at the vital moment. C’est la vie and it don’t make no never mind.

The Centre slowly drained, and we were out in the warm sunlight. We took a bunch of the usual pictures along with everyone else. It was neat seeing all these family nodes gathering around their grad. The chancellor said that the class of 1400 had students from 96 countries. I didn’t think there were that many countries. Education is hope, no matter what comes out of conservative mouths.

Despite the crowd, Lowell released us rather quickly. We will celebrate Erin’s graduation tonight at an Indian restaurant. Erin persevered, and that’s saying a lot. Beth’s strength made this happen.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Jungle Book

We saw The Jungle Book Sunday. The movie choice stacked up this way. Of the cinemaplex’s offerings, only the Batman-Superman conflict attracted me. Beth would rather The Jungle Book. For Erin, it would have been a tie between the two, except that reviews have been largely murderous concerning the contentious superheroes. Those same reviews made me rather eager for the experience, but it was not to be.

So we arrived betimes, settled into our comfy chairs, and saw the previews. Since an audience of youngsters was expected, the previews completely lacked explosions and all the rumbling assault that the previews I usually see revel in. Two offerings were animated sequels that you’ll have to take your kids to, and later they can stream it in the backseat of your car. Tother was a live action tra la featuring the dusty suburban perfection of ageless Jennifer Anniston, along with Hollywood’s most burnished situations and comedy. For example, apparent running joke of child peeing on park bench, HILARITY!

Then to the feature.

Only one human appears live on the screen, Mowgli. The youngster is comfortable in the role. The movie begins with him running with wolf cubs while Mowgli’s step-panther pursues. I thought the panther, Bagheera, was voiced by Patrick Stewart, but it was Ben Kingsley, as if there’s a difference. The animals talk, that is, speak English—talk and speak English are synonymous locutions—but I don’t think much bother went to making animal lips move. Most, but not all, the animals spoke English.

The jungle seemed more like a garden, lush green and prettily filmed. The animals are rendered lifelike in appearance but lifeless in action. Like animatronics, as Beth said. There’s plenty of kid-sized banter between the animals.

The crux comes during the dry season. When the Peace Rock is exposed in the pool of water, a truce occurs. During it, all animals may partake the water without fearing survival of the fittest.

And then Shere Khan arrives. This big slinky tiger don’t like no man, reasonably enough. All evil, he means to hunt down Mowgli, once the Peace Rock has been submerged again with the rains. Plot, tension, OMG!

Mowgli decides he must leave, to protect the pack. Bagheera offers to take him to man. Well then.

Off they go. Shere Khan appears and attacks. Mowgli runs. Bagheera fights the tiger and gets smacked down. Oh dear. Mowgli gets carried away by a running herd of wildebeest or whatever. Later, a rain-induced landslide throws the herd and Mowgli into a rushing river. Mowgli gets to shore, never mind the others.

Meanwhile Shere Khan comes threateningly to the pack, kills Akila, the alpha male, and maintains a solid threat. Standard evil incarnate.

Mowgli wanders thru the jungle, heading for the place of People. He encounters Kaa, the huge snake. She—voiced by Scarlett Johannsson—helpfully fills in the backstory of how Shere Khan killed Mowgli’s father. Mowgli’s father wounds the tiger with fire to save the boy. While the tale is told she slowly ensnares him. Then he is saved.

Mowgli wakes to find himself with a bear. Yclept Baloo, and voiced by Bill Murray, the bear saved Mowgli, tho I don’t know how or why. This is the most laidback and unthreatening bear ever. He’s just as realistic as the other animals in appearance yet somehow carries a cartoonish aspect.

Baloo wants Mowgli to collect honeycombs from a precarious cliff in recompense for being saved. Mowgli uses “tricks”, human ingenuity, to do so. As part of the pack, he was disallowed from doing such things.

Bagheera appears, not dead, to bring Mowgli home. He scorns Mowgli’s use of human ingenuity until Mowgli saves a young elephant. They plus Baloo head for the pack.

On the way, monkeys and apes abduct Mowgli. Oddly, these primates don’t speak English. They bring him to an abandoned temple atop a cliff. Within, amidst a mob of primates, is a King Kong-sized orangutan (my guess), who oddly does speak English. Voiced by Christopher Walken, of all the. Despite Walken’s unmatched cadence, this is a ridiculous scene. Especially because one of a couple of musical numbers has been squeezed in here. King Louie (sic) is too big for the temple and his chase thru walls to catch the escaped Mowgli is plain stupid. I should mench that Bagheera and Baloo helped Mowgli escape. The two battle the myriad primates, which somehow don’t pile up. King Louie manages to cause the temple to fall on himself.

King Louie wanted Mowgli to give him the red flower, i.e. fire. With fire, reasoned the big ape, he could rule the world. Mowgli didn’t know from fire.

I think when finally informed that Shere Khan killed Akila Mowgli went to the human village and horked a torch. Now to face the evil tiger. Shere Khan mocks the boy, who then discards the fire. Then the battle royal with the pack and the others fighting the tiger. The battles seemed unpackish, mostly one on one.

Eventually Mowgli runs, with Shere Khan in pursuit. Mowgli had already stated that he would no longer run from Shere Khan but okay. Mowgli had prepared a trap. Earlier there was something about dead trees. Mowgli heads into the trees and onto a branch. Shere Khan follows. The branch breaks. Mowgli catches hold of the swing he had set up earlier. Shere Khan falls to a flaming death. The shot resembled Gollum’s tumble into Mount Doom.

I read the book years ago. I don’t remember it well. I think Kipling’s animals had more gumption as animals than Disney’s aesthetic allows. Anyway, underlying the movie is an awe of movie magic. The technical aspect of all this verisimilitude is impressive. It simply plays without much emotion. I know the target audience is the young for whom emotion plays lively but still.

I will say that the credits had some charming effects. We see an open book, with apparent pop-up scenes. The figures tumble about in brief tableaux. The glimpse of the Jennifer Anniston movie—it should be titled A History of Hollywood Cliches—didn’t even want movie magic. Just the sense of salve for a populous needing entertainment as the ship nears the iceberg.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Drive About, Spring 2016

Another drive about as Beth collected appraisal pictures and I went along. It looked like the first day of spring, burgeoning and lovely. My father died on the last day of winter in 05, which seemed appropriate.

Down Rt 3 to I-95, which is still Rt 128 to me. Took the exit onto Rt 2A/Marrett Rd, heading towards East Lexington. Passing close to where I grew up.

For instance, the Old Res (for reservoir), Threw a lot of rocks into that thing. It represented semi-wildness in my cultivated childhood. It became a town swimming hole at some point but that usage seemed wrong to me. Too civilized. Passed the store where I used to get comic books and the usual oddlots of candy. Now a paint store. There are now also places where I can get a fresh BMW or have a laser scrape my face potentially fresh face. Progress.

Further on, the busy intersection of gas stations, convenience stores (not called that in the day), and so forth. Considerable so forth, in fact. A daunting number of large houses have been squeezed in behind the Dunkin' Donuts. My goodness. My former home just visible above thru the winter trees.

Somebody left coupons at our store to a Sports Barber Shop here. There used to be a pharmacy at the location. Free haircut, were I inclined. Beth thinks I’m absurd for abstaining, but see: it’s gonna be talkative stylists hepped up on local sports, and there’s something about a towel on my head and a scalp massage. Sitting in front of a mirror whilst hirsute machinations occur is travail enough, don’t add to the list.

So anyway. On to Mass Ave, within sight of the convent where I worked thru high school. It was a French-Canadian order, they were just enduring modernization (younger nuns opting for less tonnage in regards to their habits), and Catholicism was mystery to me then. Unlike now. The place now serves the assisted-living community, of which I am not, to the depth of Republican soullessness, a part.

Got pix of a comp near the bike path. The path is a stretch of paved intent running from Bedford to Cambridge. Formerly, trains ran all the way to Concord, with a northern spur to Billerica. Such modicum of individualism has been displaced by the three car garage.

Next we took the contrary route back 2A. Past, for instance, the site of an ice cream stand of much enjoyment, as the lad I was. Now part of the Minuteman National Park, the stand has been removed, and more emphasis has been placed on the fact that Paul Revere was captured at the site, on the fateful night (hardly a man is now alive). Pix taken.

Then on to Rt 2, the vital artery to Cambridge/Boston and the palooka world of valid employment. Route 2 has been receiving a quick, perhaps vicious, update from the country road that wandered to the western end of the state to a sluice that pours workers of the world to and fro, poor sods. Where quaint Concord and Lincoln meet, a swath of hillside has been transformed into condo heaven, a hillside sliced free from consideration and replaced by bonded construction of delirious intent. Irony Inc decreed this must happen maybe one mile from the vapid sanctity of Walden Pond. You know, where the guy wrote “Amplify! Amplify! Amplify!”

Past Walden, and over the culverted Sudbury River, Emerson Hospital, where I was born, and my mother died (not the same day). Dad died across the street. Looping around the famous rotary in front of the Mass Correctional Facility, we bended toward West Concord. Formerly the working class side of Concord, but real estate prices make that a memory.

Heading to Maynard on Rt 62. Maynard remains a working class town, but shows earnest in upgrading. It nestles around the Assabet River which, with the Sudbury, joins the Concord, eventually. Found all necessary comps.

Homeward, oh. A gas station in West Concord was removed for the flowering of a new bank. Next to old bank. Thru Concord. Bang left past the Colonial Inn, once owned by Thoreau’s father. Monument St past the Old Manse of Hawthorne’s mundane writing career (mundane, of the world). Past the real estate prices and horses swathed in blankets. Some real world, no doubt, exists beyond the palaver. I mean, we saw crocus and daffodils.

Dropping her report off meant we could side trip to Wegmans. Nothing egregious about the store but the crowd overwhelms me. Where should I put my piddling cart amidst the thronging? We escaped with provender and victuals. I hear the cat snore behind me as I write.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Black Mountain College at Institute for Contemporary Art

Beth and I took a rare jaunt into the city to see an exhibit about Black Mountain College. We haven't been to ICA. It sits on Boston's busy waterfront.

Beautiful late autumn day. Recent winds and rain have denuded the trees (oaks excluded), so the landscape is bright and open and electric. Chilly with the wind, down on the water.

We parked in a garage near the museum. No means of identifying where in the garage one left one's car, like numbered spaces. Could be challenges later.

Short walk to the place itself. A patch of grass that children can run upon sat near the building and decorative grasses waved lushly in the wind. Boston's waterfront is always windy.

The building is eye-catching modern, if there is such a thing (modern, I mean). Lots of straight lines and glass. A hallway oceanside allows you to sit on benches and watch the waterfront. Boston's most exclusive neighbourhood coming soon, said a sign.

First floor is dedicated to the gift shop and the restaurant. We investigated neither. The restaurant was in brunch mode. Only the fourth floor houses exhibits. I forget what's on the second floor, the third has a theatre. Up we went to the fourth floor in a large glass elevator.

I will write in more detail about the exhibit elsewhere/elsetime.  [Late edit: here is the review: Black Mountain at ICA]

The show featured work from the school community, that is to say teachers as well as student, famous and not sos. The school was never flush. Josef Albers had a couple of works featuring tree leaves, more expensive material being hard to come by.

Albers came to Black Mountain by way of the Bauhaus, when Nazi unrest produced an uncomfortable atmosphere. I wonder if William Morris' design work influenced Bauhaus? I saw no mention but it seems a commonality exists.

The poets of the school were under-represented. It doesn't seem like the artists of BMC were lumped together in a school, but the Black Mountain School remains a thing even now, however usefully. Why not include a reading?

While scribbling notes as I toured, I was interrupted by a guide. She asked if I had a pen. I offered it to her. Tho she was dressed in black like the rest of the guides I didn't recognize her as such. She handed me a pencil and said pens aren't allowed. I could keep my pen. Were I in desecrating mood, I could have got the job done with a pencil, or just my hands. And I still had the lethal pen in my pocket.

There was a dance performance of a Merce Cunningham piece. An archival b&w film of the same piece played on the wall. An ex-Cunningham dancer dressed in red danced to the concerted piano plinking of a John Cage score. The dancer was a real dancer, you could tell from his posture and movement. Visibility proved problematic with the crowd so we moved on.

The exhibit floor is a mazy hive but we made it thru all the exhibits. A small theatre offered computers where you could read brief bios and and hear interviews or readings from BMC people. Olson's reading from Maximus was animated and fulfilling, tho I have seen it elsewhere. We rather thought we would spend longer but 90 minutes seemed to be enough to see all the work. We went thru a second time, willing to follow a guided tour. Things had gotten loud however, and it proved difficult to hear the guide.

It was around three and a little early to eat, tho I was ready to. A nearby restaurant intrigued Beth so we went in. The restaurant would not open till five but a woman there chatted with us. Beth was eager to try the place because it featured Greek food. Could we but manage the wait.

We joined Satan in hating on Christmas by getting a cup of coffee at Starbuck's. Beth looked up reviews for the restaurant we just left. Loved it or hated it was the consensus. One reviewer said the bartender yelled at them. Another customer wrote that a dish arrived in error yet the restaurant required that the patrons pay for it. A few more poor service and left hungry convinced us to go elsewhere. In fact we decided to go somewhere closer to home.

Lack of signs in the parking garage left us wandering a bit till we found the car. We were om the Zakim Bridge just as golden sunset painted the hills of Charlestown. The sunset was gorgeous with high clouds and dazzling red and gold. We stopped at a Mexican restaurant at the mall for enchiladas. Disappointed with the museum but otherwise fun day with Beth.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Hunt Club by John Lescroart, and Possibly More

I don't know if I hadn't ought to teach novel writing because I discover so many critical issues in the novels that I read. I understand that we read for various reasons and different levels of attention. Still, I think I can make valid points.

I'm not even speaking of such ambitious projects as The Great American Novel (which I'm satisfied that Melville wrote more than a century and a half ago, tho the concept seems still to be alive), but just functional novels that you can wrap some brain cells around. And it's not like I'm such a perspicacious reader. Hand me an Agatha Christie story that I have already read, and I will still need to wait till the denouement for Poirot to meticulously explain who killed Lord Fluffernutter. That has more to do with my ability to work puzzles than my insight into novels. No, really!!! I'm quite the critical juggernaut regarding works of fiction. BTW, fiction is the same as poetry, only we call it fiction. Something about how language transfers to the brain...

Anyway, my current test case is The Hunt Club by John Lescroart (never heard of him before picking up this book). By page 121 (out of 405), we've got a murder, and a protagonist. More like two protagonists, but maybe plot turns and red herrings will settle things more clearly.

The book, and presumably the story, begins in 1992. Wyatt Hunt works for Child Protection Service. That's an unusual occupation for someone we expect to solve a murder mystery. Sensitively written, too. I thought this was quite intriguing. It's a bit of a red herring, as it happens.

Jump four years forward, Hunt manages to remove some children from a bad home scene. In the course of which, he meets up with a long lost old friend, who seems to be the second protagonist, Devin Juhle. Juhle is a cop.

Hunt loses his job by not playing along with his corrupt boss. He and Juhle and Hunt's platonic lawyer girlfriend contrive to bring the boss down. The boss was collecting worker's comp for a fake injury. This caper—they catch the supposed invalid at physical labour—was fun so Hunt decides to become a private eye. Not my first self-query here as to where this all heads.

This brings us to chapter five and the present day. That's a lengthy set up. Hunt has a successful agency with several employees including the now adult children he saved early on. A cluttered scene introduces the “Hunt Club”, friends and associates of the agency. Note how “Hunt Club” has two meanings. It would make a great title for a book.

Most of the main characters sit in on this scene, set at a restaurant, where the repartee flies. Actors, with facial nuances, vocal intonation, and such, could probably say these lines with some liveliness and conviction, but this jazzy dialogue just seems forced to me as I read it, and not as funny as somebody thinks it is. Maybe S. J. Perelman could come in for a rewrite.

I have here identified one problem pertaining to novelists, the belief that what they heard in their head transferred to the page. Okay, all writers, including the one at the keyboard now, wrestle with that one. This scene proposes, I gather, to introduce many of the players in the story. As I discover, these characters appear in most of Lescroart's books, with varying levels of importance. The low-grade snarkiness of everyone's dialogue in this scene does little to help bring these characters to life. Furthermore, Lescroart confusingly unleashes quite a few characters here. I'm having trouble keeping track of them. In this crowd, they don't distinguish themselves. Lescroartt assumes that you've already met these characters in other of his books.

New scene. A young waitress meets a federal judge at her restaurant and eventually they have an affair. They further eventually are found by the judge's wife at the judge's home, shot to death. Saying the wife found them should not suggest that she didn't shoot them herself. That's still to be determined.

A guest at the frothy restaurant scene is a lawyer who appears on a Court TV-like show. She gets sick drunk at the restaurant, ending with her slapping the show's producer who accompanied her to this gathering. Hunt gentlemanly brings her home.

Next day, when she's sober, she makes the world's best spaghetti carbonara (before or after, I forget which, the de rigueur rumpty bumpty). This is a chance for the author to show off, and it gets a bit weird. Lescroart describes her process in detail, as if it were some culinary miracle. You must know the miracle as well as I do: fry bacon, boil spaghetti, smush some eggs, grate cheese, mix together. There's room for genius there, I suppose, but I am sure that I had basic ability in those skills by age eleven. Andrea, the character, calls it her patented recipe. The author's just showing off.

There, I have identified a second problem with novelists: they can find themselves showing off. Scheming to make an impression, that is. Lescroart does some name-checking, for instance. I think Ian Fleming may have invented this sort of thing, to illustrate James Bond's hipness. At any rate, there's some product placement here: Jordan cabernet, Hendricks gin. Doing so seems more about the author than the character.

Presumably, Lescroart knows his San Francisco. I don't have a San Francisco, but I can see enjoying the references if I did. Local settings have a tingle, no doubt.

Juhle, until further notice, seems to have a happy marriage. Hunt lost his wife and child in childbirth. One of those looming pasts to bring up at odd moments in the storytelling. This sort of thing savours of two-bit pop psychology. That's right, not just plain pop psychology, I wrote two-bit. Too neat, and really just superfluous.

I really liked the essentially unneeded beginning of the book with Hunt as child protection agent. The story has devolved to police and lawyer procedural. Early on, I thought maybe there might be a dark side to Hunt and/or Juhle but now I realize that they are two poles in the investigation, assuming investigations have poles, and basically two pals of the author, both of which points I here do assert. Juhle takes the by-the-book route while Hunt can be loose with the rules.

What the story has come down to, then, is a lot of scene changes that instigate a lot of questions. Not very lifelike, if that's a goal, and quite stodgy in its narrative movement. We're just rooting for the good guys, at this point. Come on, denouement!

Which bring the question: What does Dear Reader want from a novel? Is it just catching the perp, in this case, and in general, the feelgood plot? I think everyone responds positively to the notion of good or at least okay endings for the protagonists. Frodo destroyed the Ring, tho with a grey tinge to the happily ever after. Etc. Justice served.

I like that shit as much as anyone, but I also like the journey . Or I should say, I want to. (Tolkien managed his journey with intricate depth: it can happen!) I don't want to notice the writer's art so much. I don't want to realize that characters are machines, automatons acting out the writer's schemes. I do notice that stuff. The stuff between the periods interests me. I regard the scheming overlay as distraction.

Keats noted it two centuries ago, the Egotistical Sublime. The author gets in the way of the words. Blake noted it, the Authors are in Heaven (and the corollary implication that the author is on earth, mere earth). Author as essential hero. I say no. The author is a sieve, here to collect some interesting bits.

The lift of novels, according to me, is not from plot development and character realization but in the telling language. Yes, novels that go the way they should offer a pleasing sensation. I read (am reading) that way now. The real scene of interest, however, occurs in the sentences beckoning meaning. Language is poetry when we get to that point, even in novels. Otherwise, a novel becomes just more messages from Our Sponsor.

I'm still reading The Hunt Club so I can give nothing away. It wouldn't matter if I could. It represents a gesture towards completion that doesn't really apply to anyone. It is the sort of book, finally, that you'd like, if you like that sort of stuff. That's not a condemnation, but it does suggest the insular park we are content to stroll in.