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lgpiper

Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
On The Beach (Vintage Classics)
Nevil Shute Norway
The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett
Obscure Destinies
Willa Cather
A Start in Life (The Michael Cullen Novels)
Alan Sillitoe
Mobilizing Web Sites: Strategies for Mobile Web Implementation
Kristofer Layon

The House Without a Key

The House Without a Key - Earl Derr Biggers While I was rummaging around at Gutenberg/Australia, looking for Philo Vance books, I discovered that they also had Charley Chan. I remembered seeing some old Charley Chan movies with my dad when I was a kid. So, I figured I should check it out. Also, the author's middle name was an entry in a crossword puzzle I did. I'd never heard of him before. So, even more reason to check out Charley Chan. This is the first of what eventually was a series of six or seven books (and something like 30 movies). I thought the book was quite good, much better than the Philo Vance book I'd read shortly before tackling this.

A very proper Bostonian travels to Hawaii to try to retrieve his aunt from "Lotus Land". Just as he arrives, his rich, black-sheep uncle is murdered. The aunt and young man try to involve themselves in solving the mystery so as to keep all hints of scandal, and thus taints on the family name, out of the press. The police, of course, think they have a part in the investigation. The chief of police has a very able assistant, Charlie Chan, and Charlie and the proper Bostonian work together (mostly) and eventually come up with a solution and nab the murderer just as he is about to escape. Interestingly, like the Philo Vance book I read just prior to this, some of the police methods would be illegal today. It seems we had little concern for the Fourth Amendment in those days. Of course what with NSA spying and stop and frisk (but only of dark-skinned people, of course), we don't seem to have much interest in the Fourth Amendment these days either.

I have some reservations about liking this book because is does show the racism inherent in our past (and not very well expunged from our present, only less overtly expressed these days). Charlie Chan is given to flowery expressions which involve some rather extensive vocabulary, but rather awful and childish grammar constructions. But, against that racist characterization of the inability of "orientals" to speak correctly, Chan is painted as good and clever person. So the implied racism isn't complete. Elsewhere in the book, we have a young woman who is shunned by society because her mother was half Portugese. WTF?

But despite the flaws, the story was very engaging and I found it rather fun to read about the way "Proper Bostonians" thought and behaved some half century or more before I became (sort of) one of them. While I live on Beacon Street, and did so when I first came to Boston to live during grad school, neither of my two Beacon Streets were the "real" Beacon Street of the "true-blue" Bostonians. Nope, I've always been stranded out in the periphery, sans cash and connections. Perhaps I should move to Hawaii where, it seems, everyone can (or could a hundred years ago) mingle and love life in peace and harmony with all peoples. Or something like that.