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April 05, 2007


Carol L. Skolnick, Clear Life Solutions

French gefilte fish, made of pike, eppis...perfect for Pesach as long as it's not served with coulis ecrivisse. (Quenelles, mon cul, mon amie. Mais dites donc!)

As you know, I never did get into Nero Wolfe, even though Rex Stout and Ngaio Marsh mysteries were practically all there was to read at my house. If I live long enough to make a dent in my Netflix queue, perhaps I'll take another look at these.


Oops, I forgot to sign with my nom de plume. Mais dites double donc!


We were a prophet without honor at GWHHS, as so we are today. JC isn't into Mr. Wolfe, and you never were. But then, as Adam Gopnik probably never says, Chanson au son goute or, to each his own tasty song.


So much to say... hell, I'm featured more prominently in this blog than in my own (you know, A Penny's Worth, at http://apennysworth.blogspot.com)D

1. What ruined Nero Wolfe for me was that TV show with William Conrad, which made me think of Wolfe in the same way I thought of Banacek or Starsky and Hutch. (Indeed Robert Urich ruined Spenser for me for a good long time as well.) But that didn't make me dislike the books; it made me never read them. So I actually am devoid of opinion on the books, because I've not read a one of them. I might well turn out to be a fan.

2. Spenser is not my favorite. My favorite dick is and will always be Phillip Marlowe. ("Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid." Raymond Chandler, in The simple Art of Murder.) sure he gets sapped in every book. Sure he's a sucker for a leggy dame. But, here I'm quoting Ross McDonald (no slouch himself), "Chandler wrote like a slumming angel." Marlowe had a moral code, consistent from book to book, that governed his actions; he was an agent for justice, but justice as he defined it. He was a noble (if oft-sapped) knight.

3. Indeed I like Spenser because Parker started out imitating Chandler (and went from there.) But Spenser these days is deeply flawed. Basically, the character appears for the first time in 1973, at which time he is 38 years old. This means today he is 72 years old, and I have a hard time buying a 72-year-old who fought in Korea as the baddest-ass mofo this side of Marblehead.

4. It should be noted that probably my favorite living hard boiled authors are Walter Mosley (Easy Rawlins, Fearless Jones are his two series characters I like) and James Elroy, who is truly twisted and dark and from the Hammett school.

5. People often think there is a "Chandler/Hammett school." But they are two different things. Hammett had been a Pinkerton man; he was a detective learning to write. His hard boilededness was legit. Chandler on the other hand was a successful businessman, well-educated, and in comparison something of a fop. He was a poet, using the hard boiled form to do some truly beautiful writing, but he was not himself legitimately hard-boiled. I like both schools. Hammett is more meat and potatoes and violent; Chandler is more poetic and noble. Parker is squarely in the Chandler school; Elroy in the Hammett school. I think Mosley falls into the Hammett school, although some would argue that what he really is, is a contemporary African-American writer and so something else entirely.

4. I don't like Sue Grafton. I'm jut saying.


I understand Walter Mosley is a half-Jewish contemporary African-American writer, in which case he's something even more entirely something else, and likely eating "Quenelles a la Manischevitz aux Gold's Horseradish" at his mom's house this week. Would love to see how that pans out in the literary argument department. Or not.


Skolnique: if yu want to freak out an African-American friend who only enjoys books and music and films made by African-Americans, refer to Mr.
Mosely as a prominent JEWISH writer. The ensuing conversation will be interesting. (Hey, 50% is 50%, however you slice it--although Mr. M. does not align himself culturally with the Jewish community.)

JC--more later, but HTF did you hyperlink from a comment????


It does seem incredible. Food is perhaps the most important element in defining Wolfe's character, after language. (His obsession with orchids mostly happens "off camera," and doesn't add that much to his character. On the other hand, we often see him cooking, along with Fritz, and eating, as well as pressing food on others.) And, as far as I know, the Wolfe stories are the only detective series to result in the publication of a bona fide cookbook. To slight Wolfe in an article about detective food is like slighting the Mona Lisa in an article about Da Vinci's painting.


To be fair, loathsome Gopnik's article wasn't just about detective food; it appeared to be about "books" in general, including Proust's cookie memories and Norah Ephron's Heartburn. It is a sloppy essay and it reads like he was looking at his own bookshelf and extrapolating from there. Lazy and stupid.

Boy, do we know how to be fair!


I guess Gopnik gets a circle 90 from Annie!

Our Mom only read trashy Sue Grafton so I don't even know who Nero Wolfe is...but if Mr. Wolfe likes food as much as I do, then he's a ~ okay in my book.

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