Happy (Belated) Shakespeare Day!

There was some sort of mis-communication between me and the good people at Invaluable so this is going up a day late (totally my fault). I didn’t even know that Shakespeare Day was a thing (but of course it is). Still . . . no matter what day it is, this is fun:

Happy Shakespeare Day! What better way is there to celebrate the life and legacy of William Shakespeare than looking back at some of his most famous insults? You are in luck, because Invaluable created a Shakespearean insult generator just in time for Shakespeare Day. The generator includes 70+ of Shakespeare’s snarkiest insults from his most famous works. Whether you wish to insult a friend, enemy, or your significant other, one of these insults is guaranteed to be perfect!

Here’s a couple of samples:

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Quotation of the Day

“A man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he forfeits the privileges of civilized discourse. But it is permissible to criticize it on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend. The last is much the shabbiest. It is arguable, if not manifest, that a substantial proportion of this great spring flood of billions pouring into the Treasury will in effect get spent for that last shabby reason.”

–Nero Wolfe

A Matter of Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I read Between Wittenberg and Geneva: Lutheran and Reformed Theology in Conversation by Robert Kolb and Carl R. Trueman. In his discussion of Reformed worship, Carl Trueman wrote:
Nevertheless, there is a sense in which beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Reformed worship service with its simple aesthetics focused on the basic elements of prayer, preaching, singing, and sacraments has an austere beauty of its own, as anyone who has ever attended, for example, a traditional service of worship in a Presbyterian congregation on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides will affirm. The unadorned human voice and the air of tranquil and reverent piety possess their own peculiar and often powerful beauty. Simplicity has its own aesthetic and can indeed have its own unadorned beauty.
I couldn’t help thinking of that passage yesterday when I read the following passage from Peter May’s The Blackhouse:
No colourful stained glass in this austere Calvinistic culture. No imagery. No crosses. No joy.

. . . A cheerless place, with worn floorboards and dark, varnished wood. It smelled of dust and damp clothes and time. . . .

Fin traced his childhood footsteps through the left-hand door and into the church itself, rows of unforgiving wooden pews flanking two aisles leading to the raised and railed area at the far end, from which sombre elders would lead the psalm-singing. . . .

In his head, Fin could almost hear the singing of the Gaelic psalms. A strange, unaccompanied tribal chanting that could seem chaotic to the untrained ear. But there was something wonderfully affecting about it. Something of the land and the landscape, of the struggle for existence against overwhelming odds. Something of the people amongst whom he had grown up. Good people, most of them, finding something unique in themselves, in the way they sang their praise to the Lord, an expression of gratitude for hard lives in which they had found meaning.

Different perspectives on Scottish Presbyterianism, to be sure — written with different aims, in very different kinds of books, but if you look hard enough, you can see them describing the same thing. It was a little striking running into those so close together.

Let There Be Linda by Rich Leder

Let There Be LindaLet There Be Linda

by Rich Leder

Kindle Edition, 377 pg.
Laugh Riot Press, 2016

Read: June 13 – 15, 2016


Let There Be Linda is hard to describe briefly — it’s like Eoin Colfer’s Daniel McEvoy books with a touch of magic, Elmore Leonard trying to write like Neil Gaiman, or is it Gaiman trying to write like Leonard? Leder says he’s inspired by Monty Python here — I think he’s close, but it’s more A Fish Called Wanda than Python (at least the way it comes out, maybe not in his mind).

The first few paragraphs are likely enough to make you rethink picking up the book (not because of Leder’s craft, but the subject matter). It took a force of will for me not to move on to one of the other 20 or so books on my TBR. Thankfully — oh, so thankfully — it took very little time after that for me to get over it. Within a few pages, Leder had won me over. Also thankfully, the antics of the character in the opening paragraphs were really toned down when he appeared in the future (when not toned down, he was at least behind closed doors).

Danny and Mike Miller are brothers, as close as Cain and Abel. Danny’s the attractive, lecherous, irresponsible, talent agent, who is always on the verge of success (even moreso, when he can’t get to the track or a phone to call a bookie). Mike’s his opposite, married, overweight, ultra-responsible, and an accountant enjoying success — and on the verge of a lot more. The one thing they have in common is that they’re devoted to their mother — Mike feels he has to be (and probably has some real affection for her), and Danny needs a place to live. On her deathbed, their mother makes Mike swear that he’ll watch out for Danny. She’s had a vision and something horrible is going to happen after her death, and she wants the two of them get through it together. Which is good, because both of them are going to need all the help they can get.

This horrible thing — or series of horrible things — will involve a very small pawnbroker/loan shark and his very large companion; a drug-addicted dentist, his plastic-surgery addicted wife, and their sometimes dead dog; a detective who wants to be a stand-up comedian; there’s a guy who thinks he’s a zombie, a couple of sometimes dead mothers, and a few other odd characters.

Oh yeah, and the girl who can bring dead things back to life.

Most of these characters owe the diminutive loan shark more money than they’ll be able to repay in years, more of them are being investigated by the Comic Cop, some of them are looking to Danny to make them money, and the dentist to care for their teeth — and . . . honestly, tracing out the interconnectedness of all these characters and plotlines would require one of those giant corkboards and colored strings that used to be on every TV detective show. But stranger. And Funnier.

Oh, yeah, and dead fish, dogs and people stop being dead.

This is strange, bloody, a little violent, and impossible to explain in a way that does it justice. You just have to read the silly thing. It’s one of the most unpredictable novels I’ve read in ages. It ties up all the important things, and doesn’t leave anything unresolved. But Leder doesn’t bother to answer everything — you’ll spend a few days trying to suss a few things out. I enjoy it when authors do that — but only on the unessential (but interesting) points. It helps the experience last longer.

I’ve spent a week trying to figure out what to say about this one, and I’m not satisfied with what I came up with. I liked the book, I recommend it — it’s amusing; there’s heart to it; there are characters that are unique, yet familiar; a world that you’ve not come across before — and a strange sort of crime story. It’s just the right mix of black comedy and criminal activity and family. If this is what all of Leder’s books are like, I need to read more of them.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I just wish it’d made more sense.

—–

4 Stars

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: The Page 69 Challenge

If you like page 69, buy it

(inspired by barbtaub.com)

Danny knew Omar was right; he was about to black out. He could sense the sun setting, even though it was the middle of the day. And he could hear Harvey singing the last verses of “Danny Boy.”

And if you come, and all the flowers are dying, If I am dead, as dead I well may be, I pray you’ll find the place where I am lying, And kneel and say an Ave there for me,”

I’m going now, Danny thought, but something happened split seconds before he lost consciousness, something he knew was important in spite of the singing dwarf and the giant choking the air out of him. It was the thing that was wrong with the room, the odd thing, the offbeat and out-of-tune thing.

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me, And all my grave will warm and sweeter be, And then you’ll kneel and whisper that you love me, And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.”

It was the fern on the bamboo coffee table, the dehydrated-dry-and-shriveled-brown dead fern that Jenny Stone had taken in her hands and breathed on. He was looking straight down right at it. Alive, he said in his head, it’s alive. And then everything went black. 


Note: I love this Page 69 Challenge idea — thanks so much, Laugh Riot, for introducing me to this.

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: Detective Gary Shuler

Detective Gary Shuler

Early on, when he was six, seven, and eight years old, when he was hurt and confused because he was the one and only child who was addressed by his full name plus a name that wasn’t his name, his parents had pacified him with tall cold glasses of milk and stacks of Oreo cookies. The cookies became physically, emotionally, and intellectually synonymous with safety and comfort. He ate them constantly throughout his life. He couldn’t stop eating them. At the same time that they were feeding him Oreos, his parents also recognized there was nothing they could do to stem the Gary Shuler Vista tide, so they taught their son to ride those waves with laughter, to be in on the joke instead of being the joke.

Oreos and comedy became the subconscious pillars upon which his life was built. He became the class clown in every class and carried an Oreo four-pack everywhere he went. He was popular and smart and a good athlete. But he was also a bit of offline, not your normal everyday kid. He saw the world at odd angles. He was an odd angle himself. “He’s a good guy, Gary Shuler Vista,” people would say, “but he’s a strange bird.” 

Let There Be Linda Excerpt: Donald the Dentist

Donald the Dentist

It was Wednesday noon. Donald the Dentist only worked a half-day (one to five), which was a good thing because he had been up all night doing cocaine in his office after Detective Shuler had handed over the garbage bag holding his dead dog. He couldn’t bear going to bed and listening to Carol cry herself to sleep.

He had finally dozed off somewhere around six and was awakened by the sound of music—literally; The Sound of Music was blasting in the living room—Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, and all the various Von Trapps singing “So Long, Farewell” as they slipped into the night and across the border.

He rubbed his index finger through the white dust on the mirror on the coffee table, ran the finger across his gums, got out of the armchair, picked up the garbage bag that held Chachi’s carcass, and walked out of his office. He went down the hall, intending to grab a shovel from the garage so he could dig a hole in the backyard behind the trees beyond the pool and bury the bag, but he arrived at the large living room just in time to see his wife kick the chair away from her feet—the chair she was standing on, so she could hang herself with the rope she had looped over the rafters that spanned the room beneath the twenty-foot, tongue-in-groove, cathedral ceiling painted Dr. Seuss red.