by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Reading”

What I've Noticed While Reading Kathy Reichs

Posted 22 January 2009 in by Catriona

Now, in order to read this post without tutting and shaking your head, it’s necessary for you to know three things:

1. I’ve never read any Kathy Reichs before.
2. I’m not quite one hundred pages through Deja Dead, the first book.
3. Everything I know about Kathy Reichs, therefore, I learned from watching Bones.

My startling conclusion, then, will come as no surprise to anyone whose familiar with both texts: they are nothing alike.

(See, I get to the heart of the big, serious issues on this blog.)

It’s true, though. Now, I’m not claiming that Bones is the best television out there.

I’m glad they dropped much of the whole “Temperance doesn’t understand pop culture references, because she’s a scientist and serious and stuff,” because that was becoming increasingly implausible.

Angela, too, has come to drive me insane over the course of the last series or so: I’d like her to realise that there are some problems and unhappinesses in life that can’t be solved by sleeping with a range of different people, but I don’t think there are any problems in Angela’s life that can’t be solved in that way. (Although the fact that her father is one of the members of ZZ Top? That makes me laugh every time, it’s so uncontextualised and therefore amusingly surreal.)

Hodgins, too, is coming to annoy me, too—purely by reason of his association with Angela and the fact that he got caught up in one of my least favourite TV plots—should they be together? Yes! Oh, but now we’ve lost the tension. Break them up!

And I’m not getting into the whole Zack thing right now, because I don’t have the time or the patience.

Still, I watch it, and I make sure that I’m not watching it during dinner, and I laugh at intentional jokes.

There’s not much laughing to be done in the novels. Seriously—they’re not funny at all. Which is fair enough, I suppose: grotesquely mistreated corpses aren’t really supposed to be funny.

(Does that make me a bad person? Laughing at the TV series? Oh, well.)

I do like the facts that the books are bilingual and the details on Montreal, but I’m not doing much giggling.

But the issue I’ve really noticed is a fairly standard one in these types of adaptations: the television Tempe seems to be much younger than the one in the books.

Now, I don’t know for sure how old book-Tempe is. But according to Wikipedia (and why would Wikipedia lie to me?), television-Tempe is my age: thirty two, born in 1976. Book-Tempe must be older than that: in Deja Dead, published in 1997, she has a college-age daughter. Even if the daughter is only eighteen and book-Tempe was young when she gave birth, there’s no way she’s as young as twenty-one.

Television-Tempe, at thirty-two, seems barely old enough to have completed undergraduate studies (four years) and a Ph.D. (five years, although I seem to remember she has a dual Ph.D.? Is that right?). Sure, that gives her, at a generous estimate, at least five years post-graduation, but then the programme’s been running for four years and she certainly wasn’t positioned as an early career researcher in the first season.

But, then, isn’t this fairly typical? One of the reasons I liked The Closer—well, liked it until I completely forgot about it and then never watched it again—was that the actress actually seemed old enough to have her character’s attainments.

That’s rare, though, and it seems to be getting rarer—though perhaps I’ve just reached an age where people seem too young for their attainments? I know I find myself looking at medical doctors in advertisements for A Current Affair and thinking, “You’re not a doctor! What are you, about twelve?”

Maybe I should hold my breath for an adaptation of Elizabeth Moon’s Familias Regnant series that casts a nineteen-year-old as Heris Serrano.

If We Lived in Georgette Heyer's Version Of Regency England . . .

Posted 19 January 2009 in by Catriona

We’d all have splitting headaches all the time. (And probably a strong dislike of rhodomontade, but I only bring that up because I really wanted an excuse to use the word “rhodomontade” in cold blood, as it were.)

But, back to the relatively serious portion of the blog post, has anyone else noticed (assuming, for the purposes of this argument, that everyone reads Heyer novels) that Heyer’s characters are far more profligate with exclamation marks than anyone really should be?

Take this passage from the end of Friday’s Child (1944):

I don’t think there’s a single piece of dialogue in there that doesn’t end with either a question mark or an exclamation mark.

(All the questions seem to be rhetorical, as well—which would drive me nuts if I found myself stuck inside a Georgette Heyer plot. I mean, it’s all very well for the villain—and we can tell Sir Montague is the villain because he speaks “silkily.” Only villains speak “silkily”—to threaten the heroine with exposure, but can’t he do it in a statement? If it were me to whom he said, “I wonder if you will live to regret it? Do you know, I believe that you may?” I’d be furious that he hadn’t given me a chance to answer myself. I might have been able to offer an alternative, after all. That’s why I’m not the heroine of a Regency romance, you see.)

And it only gets worse after the villain draws a sword on the hero’s proxy:

I suppose we’re lucky at this point that there weren’t more italics, as well as all the exclamation marks.

And I think some of these exclamation marks could actually be question marks—“What have I done!”, for example. So it’s not as though we couldn’t have had a little variety in our punctuation marks.

Fans of Georgette Heyer and her ilk often rave about the architecture, the fashion, and the etiquette of the Regency period, and I don’t deny that it’s a place I’d like to visit if I every manage to wangle my way into the TARDIS.

But if everyone’s going to be wandering around exclaiming all their statements at the top of their voices or conversing exclusively in questions that they don’t give anyone a chance to answer?

I think Regency England might have just slipped down the list a little.

Maybe below Pompeii on Volcano Day.

Lifeline Bookfest Redux

Posted 18 January 2009 in by Catriona

“Lifeline booksale,
Lifeline booksale,
Booksale,
Booksale,
Lifeline booksale!”

Thus goes my usual pre-Lifeline Bookfest song, which I’ll admit isn’t actually any more impressive when sung than it is when written down. (And, yes, it is technically called the Lifeline Bookfest rather than the Booksale, but booksale works better for my song.)

Still, the song does give some vague sense of how much I enjoy the Lifeline Bookfest every six months.

This January’s sale (which isn’t over yet, but Nick would have a fit if I suggested going a second time) wasn’t quite filled with the delights of last June’s sale, which was—for some reason that is still inexplicable to me—packed with paperback copies of obscure but fabulous Victorian novels.

But I’ve never yet left a Lifeline Bookfest empty-handed and I don’t intend to start now. So I defaulted to detective fiction:

Actually, I’m pretty pleased with that pile. Any sale where you find four Reginald Hill novels you didn’t already own is a good sale. (On top of not owning these four, I haven’t even read two of them, so that’s a bonus.) The Louisa May Alcott on the bottom there I’m also excited about, since it has a vast number of her pot-boilers and other stories that I don’t otherwise own.

But I also bought a number of novels on spec, mostly Kathy Reichs:

And some by authors who warrant Penguins on the spine:

See this, to me, is the fun of the Lifeline Bookfest: the books are just so absurdly inexpensive that it’s the ideal opportunity to think, “Hey, I haven’t read any Kathy Reichs yet. I wonder if she’s any good? Well, she’s got to be worth at least $2, hasn’t she?” and buy half a dozen of them.

(Which is also the theory that explains my enormous collections of Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer novels.)

Combine this weekend’s buys with the lovely, lovely books I bought for my work at my favourite bookshop in the entire universe (note: I have not visited all the bookshops in the universe), which is also the bookshop with the world’s most alliterative name, Berkelouw’s Book Barn at Berrima, and January has been a thoroughly satisfactorily booky month so far:

Hurray!

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