Friday, June 23, 2006


Who uses it: Linguists
What it means: A secret language between twins or other children who are isolated
How you can use it: When people are talking in a jargon you don't understand.

This version of the blog, too, is coming to an end -- the "Terms of Art" theme will end on July 31, and I'll take August off, again. What happens after that remains to be seen.

This blog has far outlived its original purpose, which was to track my move from Los Angeles to Maine. It's also outlived its primary audience, my mother. My immediate family still reads it most days, and it's handy for friends who want to check in -- but it's also had the contradictory effect of meaning I hear from friends less often. "I read your blog, so I feel like I've talked to you," they say, but that conversation is one-sided -- I've talked to them, but they haven't talked to me. I hope I don't monopolize conversations that way in real life.

I read a lot this week... some weeks are like that.

What I Read This Week

Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, The Book of the Dead. The "Pendergast trilogy" ends with this unapologetically over-the-top adventure, as Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast and his friends battle time, prison walls and an ancient Egyptian curse in order to foil the deadly plans of Pendergast's insane brother, Diogenes. Great fun, more than a little silly, and it still doesn't entirely come to an end -- the last line promises more danger to come.

Cornelia Read, A Field of Darkness. The buzz about this first novel is justified. In the late 1980s, Madeline Dare, poor cousin of a wealthy WASP family, lives in Syracuse with her husband, who works on the railroad and is inventing a rail grinder. Madeline learns about a long-unsolved murder of two girls when she discovers that her own favorite cousin may be linked to the crime. Sharp, surprising, heartfelt, and as incisive about WASP culture as "The Preppy Handbook."

Chris Grabenstein, Tilt-A-Whirl. Another impressive debut, this one came out last year. John Ceepak has returned from his tour of duty in Iraq to a job with the police force of Sea Haven, a resort town in what's presumably southern New Jersey. A wartime trauma keeps him from driving, so part-time summer cop Danny Boyle is assigned as his driver and partner. A prominent real-estate developer is shot to death in front of his young daughter, and then the daughter is kidnapped. Ceepak, who's promised to keep the girl safe, won't stop until he finds the truth. Both A Field of Darkness and Tilt-A-Whirl do a wonderful job of balancing witty narration with the grim reality of violent crime.

Alexandra Sokoloff, The Harrowing. A real old-fashioned ghost story, and it had been too long since I'd read one. Five misfit students stay in their dormitory over Thanksgiving break, and come together over a Ouija board. They believe they've made contact with a student who died in a fire in 1920, but the reality may be even more sinister. This book comes out in September.

John Lahr, Honky-Tonk Parade: New Yorker Profiles of Show People. Exactly what the title says, a collection of profiles by the author of the excellent Joe Orton biography, Prick Up Your Ears. Profiles include Laurence Fishburne (don't call him "Larry"), Mira Nair, Baz Luhrmann, Kenneth Tynan, and Dame Edna Everage. The underlying theme is a sort of sadness and hollowness universal to artists, or maybe just universal to human beings.

Mary Higgins Clark, Two Little Girls in Blue. I wrote an author recently that his book didn't have to be a bestseller to be recognized as good, and didn't need to be good to be a bestseller. I read very few conventional bestsellers, but I don't want to be a snob about them. So I read this one. It's a tight, suspenseful plot -- two identical twin girls are kidnapped, only one is returned, and she insists her twin is still alive -- but Mrs. Clark does not trust her readers enough. She tells us in detail what every character thinks and feels, instead of letting us infer it; she underlines clues, and never lets us get too anxious about the outcome. It all feels very safe, despite the thriller trappings -- and this probably explains why it's a bestseller.

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