". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Watching The Birth of the Detective: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - Not Reading The Witch Elm by Tana French

     . . . . Watching: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (2013-2014) BBC and seemingly also ITV -- it's a little confusing.  The four stand-alone episodes of the series are available on Amazon Prime.

These are based on the non-fiction book of Kate Summerscale, about the cases of this Victorian investigator, from the era that birthed the 'private inquiry agent.' (I read it, back when it was were published). Her book shows how this real life figure played a primary role in the fictional creation of the 'private inquiry agent,' who arrives then, almost in tandem with the creation of a professional police force, the Scotland Yard.

These cases inspired our early, great crime and detection fiction writers from Wilkie Collins to Conan Doyle.  These are recommended for viewers to whom this high Victorian era (1860's) mystery-crime-detection story appeals.

What this viewer most appreciates is how carefully the writers of the episodes include the mores and behaviors of the day – as depicted in novels by the sensational novelists of the period, such as Wilkie Collins. In other words they don't treat the content and the characters with the sensibilities and understandings of the present -- as far as that is possible, of course.

Though the crimes are grisley, we viewers are spared seeing them take place on screen.  Nor does one have to endure the tension of personal danger to the investigator, as in Ripper Street (which is set later), which lack is something I really appreciate as well.  We are invested in Whicher's character, though we surely don't like him or his methods in the first episode, "The Murder at Road Hill House."

As we travel with Whicher in his life after the debacle that was "The Murder at Road Hill House," both he and we get to known him better, and his character becomes, not necessarily softer, but more clearly primarily concerned with justice -- more so than he was in his earlier life.

It's satisfying to watch in all the best ways (if, like me, you like these things, of course), especially on these very cold nights.

Value added; the second episode has Olivia Coleman in it.

   . . . . READING: The Wych Elm (in the UK); The Witch Elm (In US) 2018.  Alas, the protagonist a bore. Do not care what maybe happened to him, what he maybe did, what happens to him later, and his equally non-entity family members, friends and girlfriends. The author clearly is fascinated by her protagonist and his endless but contentless ultimately ruminations, but they are not interesting.  Worst of all, nothing about the protagonists and the cops that arrive are in the least believable, unlike in her previous books. 

I had been looking forward to reading this novel a great deal for I've increasingly admired her books as they arrived.  This is a disappointment, so far below the engrossing narratives she’s previously constructed. This narrative convolutes its head up its own ass.

A Terrible Beauty (2016), the 11th installment in Tasha Alexander's series featuring the Lady Emily Ashton. So far there are 13 books featuring the inexpressibly desirable, supremely beautiful and attractive, and smartest person in the room, Lady Emily. O! don't forget Lady Emily also has the most exquisite taste in gowns and jewelry and hair styles, which she manages while reciting Homer in Greek, which has memorized, while writing deeply scholarly, groundbreaking works on Greek mythology and other ancient Greek matters.

This mystery-detection series is set in the last decade of the 19th century within in the hothouse environment of Brit peers who rule the world -- who don't actually, you know, ever work, but jaunt about for the sole opportunity to exchange the most well-bred ripostes.

I read The Adventuress ( #10, 2015), first, last year.  Never managed to finish the initial book of Lady Emily, And Only to Deceive (2005) in which she solves the mystery of her first husband's death, before I got distracted by something more compelling.

# 11 is preposterous. Plot holes and action drop-outs abound.

After a decade of Emily's adventures, marriage to dead husband's best friend, pursuit by a duke, birth of children, the dead first husband returns. Why he never showed up before is not answered in way that makes any sense beyond the author needing a plot, an author who believes if she commits the same risible slap-dash plotting in order to publish three times a year of the 1890's lady novelists, she can get away with it in the 21st century.  Or else,  Emily is so compelling to so many superior men that love of her brings even the dead back to life.

Need it be said that Tasha Alexander lives in the USA?

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