Friday’s Forgotten Books – 20 February 2015

friday's forgotten booksIn 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

Adair_Death-of-the-Author_minervaThe 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


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38 Responses to Friday’s Forgotten Books – 20 February 2015

  1. Hi Sergio, thanks for letting me know you are collecting the links for FFB this week. This is great. You can mark me for DEATH AT THE EXCELSIOR AND OTHER STORIES by P.G. Wodehouse. I’ll be posting the review in the next couple of hours.

  2. Colin says:

    Busy day for you today. Needless to say, I haven’t read your own selection – I really must try Adair some time.

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    Thanks very much for including my post, Sergio! Your own choice sounds really interesting. That unreliable narrator/unreliable telling of events can be quite effective when it’s done well. The other books on the list look great, too. I appreciate your doing the work of gathering these posts.

  4. Rich Horton says:

    My contribution this week is on Peter De Vries’ THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB:

    Rich Horton

    Thanks for doing this!

  5. John says:

    Don’t envy this task of collecting the links, but congratulations and thanks for being so thorough Happy to see you have included some bloggers who don’t often get linked. Still haven’t read a word of Adair’s. I found a copy of something that sounds similar to his Roger Ackroyd pastiche called WHO KILLED ROGER ACKROYD? but I’ll be damned if I know where I put it. Bought it on our trip to Seattle last year. It’s here…somewhere.

    • Thanks John – I have no idea how Patty does it week in week out! I think you might like Mr Adair, really I do …

    • Santosh Iyer says:

      Who Killed Roger Ackroyd ? is actually a translation of the French book Qui A Tué Roger Ackroyd? by Pierre Bayard. It is not a pastiche but an analysis of the Agatha Christie novel The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd. Bayard suggests that Poirot got it all wrong in the solution and identified the wrong person as the murderer. Bayard gives his own arguments and names the actual murderer.

      • I rather like the sound of that, thanks Santosh – there was that book that tried to expound the theory that Poirot was in fact the most successful psychopath in history, murdering hundreds of people and framing others for his crimes 🙂

  6. Richard says:

    I sat up in bed at 3:30 am and remembered I hadn’t put together an FFB post, not sent links nor even thought about it. Been a busy week, and the whole thing slipped by. Too late now, so I guess it’ll have to be next week. Thanks for doing the line and all.

  7. Richard says:

    that ws supposed to be “thanks for doing the links and all”.

  8. Richard says:

    I give up, can’t type this morning……..

  9. Great job hosting FFB, Sergio!

  10. Patti Abbott says:

    Thanks, Sergio. Much appreciated.

  11. tracybham says:

    Your review was very interesting, and I went back and re-read the post on The Act of Roger Murgatroyd, which also has some things to say about The Death of the Author. I don’t know that I will like Adair’s mysteries but I should give them a try nevertheless.

    Thanks for linking to my post. And for all the hard work of putting together all the links.

    • Thanks Tracy – well, I’ve pretty much blogged on all Adair’s mysteries but one, but I may try to win a few more converts when I get to his last book, ominously titled, And Then there Was No One 🙂

  12. Santosh Iyer says:

    After my experience of The Act Of Roger Murgatroyd, I am not inclined to try The Death Of The Author ! 🙂

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