Reading Welsh and Maineiac mysteries together, hoping to discover clues as to the state of The God’s Cycle corpus. Is it dead or alive? Pairing the Maineiac and the Welsh is not inappropriate because there are parallels in this coupling. The Maineiac is not a Mainer born and bred, but one “from away,” someone just crazy enough — wanting to live here despite the covert/overt challenge. The Welsh, as everyone in the UK knows, are plain crazy. The English of long ago absconded with Britain and the true King Arthur. The Irish (slightly less crazy Celts) absconded with St. Patrick, but that’s another history.
Friends, here’s an opportunity for us both, ongoing till the end of May. Wipf & Stock is offering a free ebook at their site for the latest in our Maine Metaphor series, Visiting the Eastern Uplands. Visiting Aroostook. To grab the ebook–the page is HERE. At the shopping cart checkout, paste in the code word UPLANDS . Make certain you are clicking on the ebook button, not that of the hardcopy. They both have the same price (sans coupon).
What is it about that word? Aroostook. “The County,” we call it in Maine. When you think of the State of Maine, maybe the quaint or upscale coastline comes to mind, ragged glacier-carved cliffs, peninsulas and islands in the Gulf of Maine. Lobsters, fisheries, boats.
Or maybe it’s mountains, the Western Mountains where we live and snowshoe. Where skiing, hunting, fishing, hiking and getting lost in the woods all come to mind. The terminus of the Appalachian Trail is at the top of our Greatest Mountain, Katahdin.
What we don’t think of is farmland, homegrown nourishment, Canadian borderlands, and …the Amish. Also, we don’t think of Ohio.
I recall my astonishment the first time I saw an Amishman in Maine. He was standing on the mezzanine in L.L. Bean’s, famous outfitter of outdoorsmen and women. This anomaly, wearing signature Amishman’s hat and beard, stood quietly observing. Everything. Everything in the hustle of shoppers shopping. I stopped shopping, gazing at him in his survey. The difference in our gazes? Mine, I’m sure, was one of astonishment. His was not.
A word is a tiny thing, a written word.
What mystery is housed in the word forest? Evergreen boughs upturned in mist, crowned with cones. And breathing leaves. Try the word Story itself.
The recent death of Stephen Hawking has me thinking about the history of the famous construct, black holes. According to Wikipedia these were proposed more as black voids by astronomer and English clergyman John Michell in 1784. One aspect smote the imagination: that of sun-in-reverse, a star’s diameter would exceed the sun’s “by a factor of 500, and the surface escape velocity” (minimal speed needed to escape the influence of gravity) would prevail. This, it was thought, would exceed light speed. The imagination back then was seeing invisible stars “hiding in plain view.” Later, the posited wavelike nature of light superseded the theory. Still, black holes had passed the event horizon of the academic imagination (as it were) in 1784.
Our investigation begins with the town’s point of view and a town character whose presence afterward will be sparingly used (that’s my plan). She’s a crank, pretty much there to start the “show,” giving a book talk in the library. Ruth Moore deployed a crank in the first chapter of her Walk down Main Street. Just to get things started.
Peter Hitchens’ blog at the Daily Mail provided a nudge to pick up Josephine Tey’s The Franchise Affair again. He quoted Holmes in defense of how amazingly wrong the easy explanation can be: “It is a capital error to theorize without data.” I only remembered this mystery book after grabbing it from the top shelf and starting on it again. Hitchens calls Tey’s mystery “severely brilliant.” Here a “dogged, skeptical inquiry reveals that something apparently impossible is true.” The “unpopular” suspects are innocent of the charge, though judged guilty by almost all in the rural town.
Good News on the Investigation of Life in The God’s Cycle. The latest: there’s loads of tension in Maine’s 1998 ice storm — enough almost to float a novel without a murder mystery. As anticipation concerning the ice storm builds, I may be able to give the murder a low-profile.
Here’s a list of factors contributing to ice storm suspense:
1. Threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. (12 such deaths reported in Maine’s storm.)
2. Trees breaking by the thousands, blocking highways and lanes, crashing on houses, and downing live power lines.
3. Absolute darkness. Slowly mitigated by primitive means. (In complete darkness, one man in Maine woke thinking he’d gone blind. R and I have experienced this darkness.)
4. Extreme difficulty walking on solid ice as thick as your forefinger is long — accompanying injuries. I had one of these and it turned out chronic to this day. (ouch)
5. Mysteriously, one store open in an isolation of light provided by the power company. My reading so far has not discovered the cause of this. The state’s central office of the power company itself lost power.
There’s much more. But all the above will suffice for minimum and slow advance on the murder, for both officials, reader, and writer.
I’ve been rereading Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers and finding it, this time around, a regular mishmash (if the paradoxical coupling with the adjective can be accepted, or even excepted). I recall being less than thrilled with my initial reading, without recalling why. Now I see. Sayers could have used an ice storm and cut the puzzle. Though some may enjoy the dance, for me it’s not engagingly presented. (I feel my eighth-grade teacher saying, pay attention!) With an ice storm her corpse could have gone under the sea, stayed out of sight awhile, bobbed to the surface, gone under, come up again, each time in a different part of the sea and (of course) the narrative. Oh yes! both reader and writer recall. –That murder again! (Or was a suicide?) But there it is again!!
I’m not yet embroiled in the investigation, but must, like any detective, do the legwork, tedious inspection of clues no matter how trivial or overblown. Much is needed. Lots of background on the ‘ 98 ice storm and other winter storms germane to the thoughts and actions of characters. This kind of work is, well, work. Something much more interesting to me is building the mystery-story structure. Also, My imagination’s been marinating in enjoyable stories of detection by various authors in both print and unabridged audio versions. It’s said Sayers immersed in mysteries before writing them. I have how-to books but don’t plan to read them… unless I get stuck?
Had thought The God’s Cycle was dead and, investigating the matter,… turns out a detective fiction might help with that inquiry. Naturally, this being the Town of Gott’im, it would not be hard-boiled, would not be noir, or PD James. Not even Sayers. It won’t be Chandler, of course, but I do rely on his method to get me through this crucial investigation. Meaning I, the author, don’t know whodunit. I will let the story itself teach me that. In fact, I don’t even know who it was done to yet.
This embedded link entry’s title, “Jackman’s Dilemma” plays off the title Jackson’s Dilemma, a mid-1990s novel by Englishwoman Iris Murdoch.
The novel is set in both London and the rural estate surroundings of the Village of Lipcott. The nearby River Lip runs through these estates near the eponymous village. Lipcott is shown interested in family doings, much like any rural community — invested in the interest and entertainment of its attentive gossip and surmise. Much like the Upper Midwestern American town, Sinclair Lewis’s Gopher Prairie, and other rural communities like Jackman Maine, and my town-fiction, Gottheim.
Here’s a bit of small talk on small towns. Small-town America. Iconic phrase, conjuring rural state of Maine population centers. I’ve been rereading Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street about a young woman interested in remaking a small rural town in Minnesota in the early 20th century. Carol’s focus is cultural. She’s a former St. Paul librarian, initially hopeful of elevating the quality of social and cultural life by encouraging artistic and intellectual pursuits in some small town. Her own hopeful is a medical man in the town of Gopher Prairie and she is the glamour he’s hungry for, encouraging her to marry and come home with him to work the town into something wonderful through her inspiration.
“Come on. Come to Gopher Prairie. Show us. Make the town — well — make it artistic. It’s mighty pretty, but I’ll admit we aren’t any too darn artistic. Probably the lumber-yard isn’t as sumptuous as all these Greek temples. But go to it! Make us change!”
Sinclair Lewis is careful early to show Carol’s waxing, waning, waxing interest in town transformation.
The tree stands among a tall grove of white pine above a white lake. Resting lightly in winter, the pine reports once like a gunshot in the deep settled cold. Then, quiet is here, snow-filled silence. But next, from far upslope near the road, the distant buzz of the chipper drifts down through snowy woodland. Passing through trees comes the jingling of winch chains and great chain-dressed wheels, mixed with the gunning of a skidder. Jingling on this twitch trail cut by loggers late last week, the big skidder rumbles right down to the pine. Halting, wafting blue smoke and fumes, the skidder looses a logger.