Drunk, by Jove

On one occasion Dr George Fordyce was called to the sick bed of a titled lady, when he had taken too much to drink.  He found it impossible to take her pulse as his own was so unsteady.  In frustration he cursed himself, muttering, ‘Drunk, by Jove!’ and he left her with some harmless medicaments.  The next day he was again summoned to see her and went, fearing her wrath at his unprofessional behaviour.  Instead she begged his forgiveness, confessed that his diagnosis had been correct, gave him €100, and vowed to mend her ways.

From British Eccentrics by Catherine Caulfield

Stephen King wins best novel Edgar

MrmercedesMaster of horror Stephen King has won America’s top crime-writing award for his serial killer thriller Mr Mercedes. The novel, in which a retired cop is taunted by the perpetrator of a massacre he never managed to solve, sees King steer clear of paranormal elements to focus on a very human evil.

The other five titles shortlisted for the best novel award were: Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin (part of his series of crime novels about the detective John Rebus); Coptown by Karin Slaughter; This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash; Wolf by Mo Hayder and The Final Silence by Stuart Neville.

Run by the Mystery Writers of America, the Edgars, named for Edgar Allan Poe, have been running for over 60 years, with the best novel prize won in the past by Patricia Highsmith, John le Carré and Raymond Chandler.

The best first novel by an American author award went to Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman, in which a corpse is discovered on the property of an elderly man in Wild Thyme, Pennsylvania.

The ceremony also saw James Ellroy and Lois Duncan named grand masters, an honour the Mystery Writers of America says represents “the pinnacle of achievement in mystery writing”.

It is just a pity that, as far as I know, Stephen King has no plans of visiting The Glass Key bookshop in the Cite de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon.  It is just possible that he has heard of the extraordinary number of famous people who have died here.

Good news for books

Giving the annual Douglas Adams lecture recently, Neil Gaiman spoke at length about his memories of his friend and fellow author, revealing the details of a conversation “almost 30 years ago now”, when the two were discussing the idea of ebooks.
We were talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was something which resembled an iPad, long before it appeared. And I said when something like that happens, it’s going to be the death of the book. Douglas said “No. Books are sharks.” I must have looked baffled because he looked very pleased with himself. And he carried on with his metaphor. “Books are sharks … because sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.”
Adams told Gaiman: “‘Look at a book. A book is the right size to be a book. They’re solar-powered. If you drop them, they keep on being a book. You can find your place in microseconds. Books are really good at being books and no matter what happens books will survive.’ “And he was right”, said Gaiman.

I read this in The Guardian and firmly believe that Adams was right.I had forgotten that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was not simply the title of the book by Adams, but was also an object.

Whither reality?

I have just read The Goalie’s Anxiety of the Penalty Kick by Peter Handke (first published in German in 1970) which is basically the story of a man losing his grip on what we would call reality. Words and the things words signify become increasingly separated. Here is a brief extract which appealed to me:

“He was relieved to discover a square on the map that he could not find on the landscape: the house that had to be there wasn’t there, and the street that curved at this spot was in reality straight. It seemed to Bloch that this discrepancy might be helpful to him.”

The English

One of the greatest qualities which have made the English a great people is their eminently sane, reasonable, fairminded inability to conceive that any viewpoint save their own can possibly have the slightest merit.

Stevie Smith, Novel on Yellow Paper