Category Archives: Art
Some days it is difficult to tell the difference.
Our age is not unique with so many people investing in outright lies, irrational theories, delusions, and hokum. People are willing to kill you over their view that Tuesday is Saturday. Lester Bangs wrote back in 1972:
[P]eople pick up on things in the ghastliest most uncalled-for ways. Black Sabbath has a drug song called “Hand of Doom” that, aside from having an arrangement with incredible dynamics including upwards of half a dozen breaks, is one of the strongest, starkest statements yet on the chemical plague to come out of pop music. It’s almost as good as Lou Reed’s “Heroin,” and positively demolishes such false sentiments as Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Zone” or John Prine’s “Sam Stone,” because it doesn’t romanticize too much (the element is inescapable) and doesn’t turn the subject into grist for a soap opera. Instead, in grim, straightforward language, it describes a person dying slowly by their own hand, and points out the insanity of it firmly.
But there are people who will come along and take a song like this and automatically pick out some of the harshest lines with peculiar logic, taking them as an affirmation of that self-destructive cycle. (“A Lester Bangs Reader,” p. 234)
Some people will be choked by the “hands of doom,” and those hands will be their own.
Looks as if we have at least two options for how things might go generally in 2021:
Ponder staying home. You can see wonderful images of people traveling right here on your computer, if you are lucky enough to have one. There’s a pandemic out there. You, your family, and friends will be glad you missed it.
Having made my way through the novel, I want to point out a passage in the acknowledgments: “I first had the idea for this book a few years ago, when I was fortunate enough to visit a retirement community full of extraordinary people with extraordinary stories.” Richard Osman’s book is a fictional tribute to those colorful grey folks who have been verbally euthanized by the government. Instead of depicting seniors in care facilities as proto-corpses, Osman conveys the energy, cleverness, tenacity, and improvisational skills of adults over 50. Osman focuses on his characters’ attunement with justice, revealing the paucity of mystery novels that dwell mainly on puzzle solving.
Osman’s characters know that at any moment one of their actions could be interpreted as an indication of decline, deterioration, foolishness. The police officer Chris feels the need to remind Elizabeth, one of the adults over 50, of her place: “You didn’t think Donna and me might have been interested at this point?” asks Chris. Elizabeth: “Firstly, Chris, it’s ‘Donna and I.’ And secondly, who knew what the bones were? We didn’t want to waste your time until we knew for sure what we were dealing with. What if we’d called you out and they were nothing but cow bones? Wouldn’t we have looked silly old fools then?” (231)
As Samantha Irby says, “Leading people on is a hate crime.” When it comes to book reviews, it’s at least an economic crime. If another person buys a book on someone’s inflated recommendation, give Samantha the inflater’s home phone number. Anyone can avoid this fate by picking up a copy of The Thursday Murder Club at your local library. Decide on your own whether it was worth the trip. Richard Osman won’t be hurt by that circumstance. His cozy mystery is a hit sales-wise, and it’s abundantly clear after reading only a few chapters why this is so.
Here’s a taste of the impish fun inside. Elizabeth and Joyce are two of the mature characters in the book who are part of the murder club at the retirement community. They take a bus trip to another town, but Elizabeth hasn’t informed Joyce of Elizabeth’s hidden agenda.
“We’re going to investigate the murder?” [Tony Curran, a local, has been smashed upside the head].
“Of course we are, Joyce,” says Elizabeth. “Who better than us? But we have no access to any case files, any witness statements, any forensics, and we are going to have to change that.” Which is why we’re here. I know I don’t need to say this, Joyce, but just back me up, whatever happens.”
Joyce nods — of course, of course. They walk in.
Once inside, the two ladies are buzzed through a security door into a public reception area. Joyce has never been inside a police station before, though has watched every ITV documentary going, and she is disappointed that no one is being wrestled to the ground and dragged to a cell, their obscenities thrillingly bleeped out. Instead there is just a young desk sergeant pretending that he isn’t playing solitaire on his Home Office computer.
“How can I help you ladies?” he asks.
Elizabeth starts to cry. Joyce manages to control her double-take.
“Someone just stole my bag. Outside Holland & Barrett,” weeps Elizabeth.
So that’s why she didn’t have a bag with her, thinks Joyce. That had been bugging her on the minibus. Joyce puts her arm around her friend’s shoulder. “It was awful.”
“Let me get an officer to take a statement from you, and we’ll see what we can do.” The desk sergeant presses a buzzer on the wall to his left, and within seconds a young constable enters through a security door behind him.
“Mark, this lady has just had her handbag stolen on Queens Road. Can you take a statement? I’ll make a cuppa for everyone.”
“Certainly. Madam, if you’ll follow me?”
Elizabeth stands her ground and refuses to move. She is shaking her head, cheeks wet with tears now. “I want to talk to a female police constable.”
“I’m sure Mark can sort this out for you,” says the desk sergeant.
“Please,” cries Elizabeth.
Joyce decides the time has come to help her friend out. “My friend is a nun, Sergeant.”
“A nun?” says the desk sergeant.
“Yes, a nun,” says Joyce. “And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what that entails.”
The desk sergeant sees that this is a discussion that could end badly in so many ways, and chooses an easy life.
“If you’ll give me a moment, madam, I will find someone for you.”
He follows Mark back through the security door, and Elizabeth and Joyce are alone for a minute. Elizabeth stops the waterworks and looks over at Joyce.
“A nun? That was very good.”
“I didn’t have much time to think,” says Joyce.
“If pushed, I was going to say someone had touched me,” says Elizabeth (pp. 54-55).