In Patti Abbott’s absence, while she finishes going over the proofs of her latest book, I am corralling today’s FFB – there will be updates throughout the day so please send me your links if I’ve missed you off the list below – and thanks in advance for your great contributions to the meme, which next week will be back at its usual Pattinase home.
My own brief contribution this week is a return to one of my favourite writers, ironist and postmodernist supreme Gilbert Adair, who made his first engagement with the mystery genre with his phantasmagoric 1992 short novel, The Death of the Author …
“As I have discovered to my disappointment, death is merely the displaced name for a linguistic predicament, and I rather feel like asking for my money back” – Léopold Sfax
The Death of the Author – named after Roland Barthes’ celebrated 1967 essay of the same title – is a post-structural roman à clef riffing on the Paul de Man scandal that rocked the literary establishment in the 1980s. At its best, this is a very smart post-modern debunking of post-modern theory, relishing the opportunity to take down the poseurs who seem to make so much capital from deconstructing texts and then rebuilding them. It is also a murder story, narrated by Léopold Sfax, a fashionable literary critic who propounds a theory known as, well, ‘The Theory.’ It posits that the author’s intentions are irrelevant and only the reader counts – Adair’s book is in fact dedicated to the reader – but is it Adair or Sfax’s dedication?
“… so it was, with the advent of the Theory, that the Author was to find Himself declared well and truly dead.”
It turns out Sfax may have a very nasty skeleton in his closet and may have to kill the person who wants to write his biography .. but is that really what we are reading? As we revisit his past, his telling of it seems to change each time we read it – is it possible that the basic precept of ‘The Theory’ was in fact a deliberate ruse, a tool to deflect attention from Sfax’s previous bad deeds? And just how reliable is our narrator – and indeed, is Sfax really the author of this tale? By turns clever and obtuse, the books is even more fun if you can enjoy the references to the likes of Nabokov, Derrida and Barthes but even if you are not conversant wit hose giants of modernism, this short novel is never less than witty and provides an always amusing analysis at the reasons we read, why we write and why we comment. Just not necessarily in that order … This is little book that is always elegant and amusing and is a great wa to flex your postmodern muscles too!
Definitely worth 3 Fedora tips out of 5 – ‘Sfax’ of course would reject this, but secretly would think it worth at least 5 out of 5.
Here are some of today’s other FFB contributions (with regular updates still to follow):
Joe Barone – Black Diamond by Martin Walker
Yvette Banek – Murder by Latitude by Rufus King
Les Blatt – Lament for a Lady Laird by Margot Arnold
Bill Crider – Take Me As I Am by William H. Fielding (Darwin L. Teilhet)
RTD – Spiderweb and Shooting Star by Robert Bloch
Martin Edwards – Heir to Lucifer by Miles Burton (aka John Rhode)
Curtis Evans – The Green Shadow by James Edward Grant
John Hegenberger – Spin and Marty by Lawrence Watkins
Rich Horton – The Blood of the Lamb by Peter De Vries
Bernadette Inoz – Written in Stone by Ellery Adams
Nick Jones – The Mask of Memory by Victor Canning
Margot Kinberg – China Trade by SJ Rozan
George Kelley – Murder in the Key Club by Carter Brown
Rob Kitchin – The Day the Music Died by Ed Gorman
BV Lawson – The Rising of the Moon by Gladys Mitchell
Evan Lewis – Three-Bladed Doom by Robert E. Howard
John F. Norris – Norman Pink – neglected detective (created by Mark McShame)
Puzzle Doctor – Think Of The Children by Kerry Wilkinson
James Reasoner – Last Chance at Devil’s Canyon by Barry Cord (Peter Germano)
Moira Redmond – The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis
Kerrie Smith – The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons
TomCat – Case Closed (50th issue) by Gosho Aoyama
TracyK – Murder in the Raw by William Campbell Gault
Prashant C. Trikannad – Death at the Excelsior and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse