Books Magazine

Sunday Salon on a Friday: August 12, 2012

By Bluestalking @Bluestalking
Sunday Salon on a Friday: August 12, 2012

Source: via Lissie on Pinterest

Oh, don't be silly. I don't mean YOU, Dear Readers. I mean the rest of the world, the rude people who ignore the fact I'm clearly absorbed in something which precludes simultaneously engaging in verbal dialogue, making me want to smash them in the face with a brick. Did I say "brick"? How violent of me! I meant to say "shovel."

Anyone who interrupts your reading to ask what's absorbing you so deeply is not a true reader. And if they're not satisfied with my lifting the book, so they can read the title for themselves, I mark them down a few more intelligence points, because the next question is, inevitably, "What's it about?" Okay, yeah. Interrupt me, then ask me for a freaking plot summary. It's like walking into surgery, asking the doctor, "Whatcha operating on?" If I felt moved to share what I was reading with the world in general I'd read out loud. Go see a movie, stupid, and leave me alone.

I was away all week, on my writing retreat, interrupted Tuesday evening by a Coldplay concert, which was totally worth it, even if it did throw my writing off, interrupting it so thoroughly I couldn't get back into the groove the rest of the week. But Coldplay? They're amazing live; you must see them. A band that sounds the same live as "enhanced" in a recording studio is truly a talented group. Plus the light show... Sent chills down my spine.

The writing was only going meh, anyway. Well, at first I cranked out 20 pages of what I didn't intend to write about at all, which surprised me. Then the concert, then I came back deciding to go to the beginning and revise what I'd written, because I thought to myself "wouldn't it be better from a first person POV?" The result was a MESS. A right jolly MESS. Do not do this if you're writing or planning to write, trust me. I hardly know what to do with it now. I've started up from where I left off the first time, pretending the first few pages don't even exist, and it may be the only way to get through this first draft at all. If I keep going back, changing things, there's no more sure recipe for failure. Sigh.


The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch. Amazon Crossing, 464 pages. November 2011.

[Personal Kindle copy.]

In reading news, I finished The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch. I bought it as one of the Kindle Daily Deals and the sequel as well. Most of their offerings aren't of much interest to me but I took a chance on these two and haven't regretted it. Really entertaining writing - reminded me of the Salem witch trials brought to life - and knowing it's partially autobiographical, using the author's German ancestors as real-life characters, made it all the better. What a genius idea, really. His descendants are going to have a ball reading about their early ancestors.

The main character, Jakob Kuisl, reminded me of Hagrid from Harry Potter. He was apparently a huge bear of a man, which helps as he was the town's hangman, responsible for torturing and carrying out death sentences. The downside is the family was shunned for being "unlucky," living on the fringes of society. The hangman's own daughter, Magdalena, who played a key role and made for a good title, even if it's a bit questionable as the story wasn't wholly about her. But Jakob, along with his helper and somewhat friend somewhat foe Simon Fronwieser (a doctor who was in love with Jakob's daughter), made for excellent comedy. Their sometimes friendly, sometimes very not so relationship could be slapstick at times, tongue-in-cheek at others - and even a bit violent, on the side of the hangman. It really enlivened the whole experience, done sparingly.

I can imagine my early Dutch ancestors as interesting characters. They were among the first farm families to settle Manhattan island, one of them formed the first Dutch Reformed Church in the new world, etc. Since they were church goers, finding records of them would be quite easy, and is how I know of them at all. Finding personal details, though, may not be so clear cut. I don't know how to research genealogy that deeply and frankly don't want to devote time to it: unless I were to write a novelization of their lives. My plate runneth over as it is, plus I'm not always so fond of my extended family and am not sure I want to know more about them.

The Hangman's Daughter is a story about the accusation a local midwife is a witch, after two children die violently, both bearing "witch's marks." These orphan children spent their extra time hanging around the midwife, who happened to have a similarly-shaped birthmark - unfortunately for her.

As 17th C townsmen will, they began to scream about the devil and possession and all sorts of other "pleasantries," taking the midwife into custody. The poor hangman, whose children had all been delivered by the midwife, was put in the position of having to torture her, while he and Simon worked hard to find the truth as to what was actually going on. On a positive note, the hangman was also an herbalist/healer of sorts and was able to slip very strong medications to the midwife, to easae her pain and make her ambivalent to it. At least the first time he was forced to torture her.

Well-written and mostly gripping, though the repetition of interviews required in the investigation got a bit dull. I know that's exactly as such things must go but I found myself skimming over them in an effort to get through this rather long book. Which I did do, by the way, over the course of the week-long retreat.


I also made it through a novel I pretty thoroughly trashed, the Booker-nominated The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twang Eng. If you're wondering, yes I did post my thoughts on that and yes I did take the post back down because it was far more harsh than it actually should have been. I kept thinking back to my Sebastian Barry (!) interview, and his statement publishing a book's a bit like a miracle, which gave me pause.

No, I didn't enjoy the book and no, I don't think it should have been nominated to begin with but I felt guilty having ripped it apart so mercilessly when it probably didn't deserve it. I didn't think it through before I hit SEND, the drunk-dialing of blogging. So, I'm going to revise it and post it, de-harshing it a bit and extolling a few of its virtues, which it actually did possess. My big question: did Tan Twang Eng, or his agents, or ANY OF THE BOOKER JUDGES, see it before I yanked it. Please say no.

As this was intended to be a quickly-composed, and very late, replacement for what wasn't posted last Sunday, I'm going to cut this off now. Loads to do, little time. The same old complaint.

Hopefully this Sunday will be better and I'll have time to fill in more reading blanks, as there are so many it's like a fine Swiss cheese. But I did somewhat enjoy my time away, got some reading and writing done and have finished and started more books than I believe I can ever write about. Lucky you!

See you Sunday - hopefully.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog