Mystery train

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express · Agatha Christie · 1934
Harper Collins, 2017 · 267 pages, paperback

A wealthy man of dubious morals is found stabbed to death the night after he discloses to detective Hercule Poirot that he fears for his life. Snowdrifts have caught the Orient Express en route between stations. No footprints in the snow: the murderer must still be aboard, and it’s Poirot’s job to find out who it is. It’s classic whodunit style.

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A simultaneity of selves: Auster’s 4321

We humans are a messy business with our many different selves, often conflicting selves, all bundled into one body and not allowing us to sit easy because what if? 

Auster, 4321

4321 · Paul Auster
Henry Holt & Company, 2017 · 866 pages, hard cover

4321 answers that what if? Four Archie Fergusons, four variations on a theme, a concerto played in four keys – the raw materials are the same but…a tweak here, a crank there…different circumstances then, and the changes these circumstances wreak on Archie as he grows up yield young adulthoods so outwardly varied that it’s only through Paul Auster’s talent as a novelist that we can discern that each of the four Archie Fergusons is undoubtedly the same man.

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Interlude: end of quarter at the Masthead

The Masthead is closing out its first quarter! A quick look at the past three months:

Books reviewed: 11 (10 fiction and 1 play: Shakespeare’s Othello)
Translated fiction: 5 (from 3 languages: Russian, French and Arabic)
New-to-me authors: 4 (Doerr, Atwood, Camus and Chabon)
Oldest book: Shakespeare’s Othello (1603)
Newest book: Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (2014)
Longest book: Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (704 pages)
Shortest book: Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (87 pages)

A pithy recap of each book read and reviewed here since January 15:

The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Detailed in its vision of mankind’s hypothetical innocence; experimental, psychological, emphatic; similar elements as in The Brother’s Karamazov and Demons

All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Conventionally pretty, if also self-conscious and superficial; structurally cohesive with strong motifs but a little lacking in story and characters

Shame, Salman Rushdie
A serio-comedy in the same vein as Midnight’s Children (and almost equally as good); a vivid and terrifying account of how insidious and far-reaching shame can be

Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
Verging on the grotesque, a dystopia that engenders pity and anguish more than it provokes fear

The Stranger, Albert Camus
Argues for both the absurdity of life and its mundane value; existentialism without the crisis

Naguib Mahfouz: three novellas of revolutionary Egypt
The 1952 Revolution: what it was meant to be and what it turned out to be; literary works that give three different perspectives

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
Tight writing and a decades-spanning story of superhero proportions

Othello, William Shakespeare
A play pricked on by spite – and with a fifth act that takes an unusual turn for Shakespearean tragedy

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote
A vagabond life ≠ Wanderlust and Holly’s glamour isn’t a happy glamour

♠ Browse the review index to see all reviews from the Masthead ♠

Miss Holly Golightly, traveling

Tiffany’s, that place of places where nothing bad can ever happen to you, is a place Holly dreams of but never ventures to step inside.

Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Breakfast at Tiffany’s · Truman Capote · 1958
Vintage, 1993 · 87 pages, paperback

Holly in sickbed: lipstick, eye liner, perfume and pearls but this is no glamour. It was never about glamour but about disappearing.

Holly in hospital is Holly in actuality, and we see what we never noticed before, just as all the men at her dinner parties never saw the bare walls or the emptiness of her apartment and dutifully ignored that quiet little word – traveling – on her mailbox.

Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s is about trying to find a sense of belonging in a world that will accept anything, especially false perceptions, as matters of fact. It’s easier this way; things fit together so nicely this way. Continue reading