Fallout

Rainbow Dishcloths
Photo Credit: Cathy Weeks, posted to her Flickr account

People who have known me for any length of time know that I unequivocally and wholeheartedly support marriage equality and equal rights (and have done for many years). And so I rejoiced and huzzah’d and cheered and had the biggest grin ever plastered on my face last Friday due to the Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land.

But along with the general rejoicing all over the social media and news sites I frequent, a peculiar and disturbing “my civil liberties have been infringed by SCOTUS” theme has emerged from some not wholly unexpected quarters.  Republican Presidential candidates, religious zealots, and conservative media dittoheads, as well as certain family members and a few friends — some long-term, some more recent — are spouting the fundamentalist party line that this decision means the next thing will be lawsuits to force ministers to gay-marry people, therefore Christianity itself is at risk, and we better gather up the womenfolk and chilluns because they’ll be coming for your guns and Bibles shortly.

What complete and utter bullshit.

News flash, folks.  The Obergefell v. Hodges decision affects your civil liberties not a whit.  Ministers are still perfectly free to not marry anyone who doesn’t meet their particular denomination’s dogmatic standards.  You are still perfectly free to believe whatever you like, worship however you like, and hold whatever opinions you wish. You are perfectly free to bemoan the “moral decay” you think you’re witnessing. You are perfectly free to rant and rave and quote obsolete and irrelevant Old Testament verses that support your views. And you are perfectly free to call for a Constitutional amendment to override a decision that you find abhorrent.

(Personally, I’d like to see a Constitutional amendment that overturns the Citizens United decision, but that’s a different rant. I wish us both good luck with that, by the way. This republic’s Constitution has been amended only 27 times in the 226 years since it was ratified, and the first ten of those amendments were done only two years after initial ratification, so essentially only 17 amendments have passed muster in over 200 years.)

However, what you are no longer free to do is discriminate against your LGBTQ brothers and sisters with respect to the legal protection of marriage. You don’t have to like it. That’s part of your freedom, as well.  But you have to understand that marriage has very little to do with religion, anyway.

*pause to insert earplugs to block the screams of outrage*

Yes, you heard me.  Marriage itself has nothing to do with religion.

Now I know a lot of people choose to get married in a religious ceremony, with prayer and talk of God and holy matrimony and so forth.  I did so myself;  it was lovely and moving and very special indeed.  But the religious service that constituted the saying of our vows has nothing to do with the facts of our marriage.  We could have just as easily walked down the hall to the office of the Justice of the Peace on the day we picked up our marriage license, had that fine worthy perform the ceremony, and been just as married.  Because what constitutes the fact of my marriage is this:  My husband and I went to the county courthouse, purchased a license, had a ceremony performed by an individual who certified on that license that he was authorized to perform marriage ceremonies. He then submitted that certified document back to the county for the marriage to be entered into county records as proof of the legally binding contract my husband and I entered into on that beautiful spring day many years ago.

Marriage in the United States is a legal contract, and thus it’s a civil matter, licensed, recorded, and sanctioned by the government.  The fact that many people celebrate their marriage vows with a religious ceremony is irrelevant. That means it’s also irrelevant if your religion says homosexuality is a sin, and therefore gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married.  Marriage is a civil matter, and what your religion says has no bearing on the right of consenting adults to marry.

But here’s another thing you have to understand.  Marriage equality is no threat to your church. Hordes of gay folk clad in rainbow-colored wedding garments aren’t going to storm your sanctuary, demand to be married at your altar, and file lawsuits if refused.  Your church’s clergy are protected under the First Amendment and can refuse to perform a marriage ceremony for anyone who is perceived as not meeting dogmatic or doctrinal standards.  For example, a Catholic priest may refuse to marry a divorced person because Catholic doctrine says divorce is a sin. An Orthodox rabbi may refuse to marry a Jewish person to a non-Jewish person because Judaism generally frowns upon interfaith marriages.  Heck, my own pastor very nearly refused to marry my husband and me because my husband is an atheist.

As mentioned above, though, you’re perfectly free to believe homosexuality is a sin, although I would ask you to take a look at a little research on the so-called “clobber verses” that people with those beliefs generally quote to back their position.

And, because I don’t want to stop loving my friends and family who buy into this “my religious freedoms are being attacked” nonsense, I had to “unfollow” a few people on social media in the last couple of days. They aren’t de-friended or blocked, just not followed for a while, until their hateful, spiteful, inaccurate, or ugly status updates die down.

Love wins. Sing glory hallelujah!

Two friends got a marriage license yesterday.

They have been together for decades.  They’ve owned houses together, ran a business together, participated in their community and held responsible and highly visible civic positions; they contribute to charity and take part in fundraisers for local organizations; they have been upstanding citizens of their small Southern city and the very definition of the committed, devoted couple for all to see.

Photo copyright: The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, 2015
Photo copyright: The Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, 2015
But they couldn’t get married.

Then, yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided they could.  And they hotfooted it down to the courthouse and managed to be the first same sex couple issued a marriage license in Garland County, Arkansas.  Take a look at those faces in that photograph.  That’s pure joy.

Congratulations, Alan and Joe!  It’s been a long time coming.  I expect your upcoming nuptials will be nothing short of fabulous!

WIP Wednesday: Cross-stitching the Squares

12 down, 51 to go.

I finished crocheting all the squares of the Tunisian Terror on April 20, 2015 — one week shy of one year since starting the project.

63 squares in 21 colors.
63 squares in 21 colors.

The cross-stitching of the squares began immediately.  Thus far, 12 squares are completely finished with all embroidery and the weaving-in of ends; two more are partially done.

12 down, 51 to go.
12 down, 51 to go.

The cross-stitching moves quickly. The multi-colored designs make the plain squares lively, and solid color stitching anchors the multi-colored squares. I ran out of the black acrylic worsted yarn purchased for this project before finishing the crocheting but had some black acrylic worsted in stash which works just as well. There’s some slight difference in texture, but no one will notice it.

Stitch Along Wednesday

“Worsted” is a curious word.  Note to self: check origin as it relates to yarn.

In other news, rehearsal continues apace for Harvey.  We open a week from Friday.  Woo hoo!

This post is part of the Stitch-Along Wednesday round-up.  Click that badge over there to see what other folks are working on.

It’s A Thrilling Thursday Throwdown!

Yarn Book Banner 3

The above blog post title came about because I’ve missed WIP (aka Stitch-Along) Wednesday and Freshly Finished Friday for the last few weeks, despite my best intentions.  This evening I found some time to take a few photos and do a little mental composition; thus, a blog entry!  Ta da!

Said blog entry (that would this one, the one you’re reading, right here, right now) will contain:

  • Photos of an unfinished project!
  • Photos of a finished project!
  • Photos of a project that has yet to be commenced!
  • Yarn p04n!
  • And a flimsy explanation for the recent lack of activity (plus a bonus excuse for a future lack of same)!

Isn’t that thrilling?  Get it, thrilling?  Because it’s a “thrilling Thursday throwdown”?  Oh, never mind.  Let’s get started, shall we?

Mom's Tunisian 18First, the unfinished project.  The Tunisian Terror approaches the end of its crocheting phase.  I have one more solid square to finish in the coffee colorway, two to make in the cranberry colorway, and then eight striped squares.  Once the striped squares are completed, the crocheting is done.  Then will begin the cross-stitch component of this blanket.  Yes, each of these squares will have a cross-stitch design embroidered on it.  Have I mentioned I don’t do cross-stitch?  That’s my sister’s craft.  But, for my mother, I will do my best.

Bryony 5Next, the finished project.

Pattern: Bryony Cap by Tammy Eigemann Thompson; found in Interweave Knits Weekend 2010Click here for the Ravelry project page.

Yarn: Malabrigo Rios, colorway Marte, roughly 162 yards

Needles:  Addi Turbo circs, size 9 for the ribbing, size 10 for the cabled body, and size 10 DPNs for the crown

Satisfaction with end product:  Very pleased.  If this hadn’t been intended as a gift, I’d have gladly kept it.  I’ve never used Malabrigo before, and now I understand why fellow yarncrafters fall all over themselves for it.  It’s a dream to stitch: soft and squishy and satisfying, not to mention flat-out gorgeous.  Pure tactile pleasure! The pattern itself was well-written and easy to follow.  I made a few minor adjustments.  The pattern called for Bryony 6using a US 10.5 needles, but the ribbing in the 10.5 needle was far too loose for my tastes, so I switched to US 9s and cast on the same number of stitches that were required for the cable portion of the hat (rather than increasing after the ribbing as the pattern specifies). After the ribbing and a no-increase knit row, I switched to the larger needle (a 10, rather than the 10.5) and carried on as written. Using the smaller needles meant row gauge was short, so I did two and a half repeats of the cable section to get sufficient height before starting the decrease. The extra half repeat meant adjusting the decreases to get the same pattern effect at the crown, so I shifted the k2tog and ssk sections by…um, I think it was six stitches.

Purple Shawl 1The project yet to be commenced is also a gift.  I want to use the yarn pictured, which is Miss Babs Cosmic Handpainted Sock in colorway Swan Princess, because the gift is intended for a purple-loving person. The pattern pictured, Bellingrath, is the current champion of the Ravelry “what’s in my library?” search.  I’m just not sure it’s the right pattern for a colorway with such high contrast.  I’m afraid the lace will get lost in the color changes.  I have another sock yarn in stash that is a much lighter purple and much more subtle in its color changes, and now I’m waffling back and forth between the two, plus still stalking Ravelry for patterns. Thus, the “yet to be commenced” part of this project.  I suppose one could say that the only thing I’ve decided here is to make something purple for a particular individual.  Thrilling, yes?

And now, the promised yarn p04n.  I’ve been on a bit of binge recently.  Ready?

Yarn Acquisitions 1Wait, here’s another angle.

Yarn Acquisitions 2Some go-to workhorse yarn (the Cascade 220, along the back), some vibrant look-at-me sock yarn (four skeins at the front left), and that gleaming alpaca-rayon blend Folio in a deep charcoal on the right.  Heaven only knows when I’ll get to use any of it…well, that’s not true.  I bought the Cascade because I needed those colors for specific gifts.  The rest was whimsy.  It’s the whimsy that gets me in trouble.  I am quickly approaching SABLE status.  (That’s “Stash Acquired Beyond Life Expectancy”, for the uninitiated.) I’ve already achieved BABEL status.  (That’s “Books Acquired Beyond Expected Lifespan”.)

Harvey 1Speaking of books, I’ve read several good ones recently.  No, I haven’t blogged about them.  Yes, I feel guilty.  But (here’s the flimsy explanation portion of this blog entry), I’ve been busy.  With this.

Yes, that is a script for a stage play.  After three years away, I auditioned for a local community theatre production and was cast as…

The female lead.  Veta Louise Simmons, sister of Elwood P. Dowd, he of the white rabbit fame.

It’s nice to know my acting chops have not failed despite their lack of recent use.  It’s not so nice to realize I have over 200 lines to learn and must be totally off book, not even calling for a line, by NEXT TUESDAY!!!

Harvey 2Just look at all that yellow on those pages.  It’s like that throughout most of the show.

Actually, I have a good grasp of about half of my scenes, and between now and Tuesday night will be spending virtually every moment that I’m not working with my nose buried deep in that script.  I intend to drive my husband insane by making him run lines with me every night when he gets home from work.  I expect I’ll make the other riders on MARTA think I’m insane by constantly muttering to myself while commuting back and forth to the office.

We open in May, so (and here’s the excuse for future absence bit) don’t expect much in the way of activity here for the next couple of months.  I hope to get back here and read some of your entries for Knit & Crochet Blog Week, but there’s no way I can take part this year. *sad face*

Hey!  I have one more photo for you, and would like a little feedback on it.  When I sat my camera on my desk to upload the photos I had taken today, I noticed something interesting in the viewscreen, so I quickly snapped a couple of shots.  After some judicious editing and cropping, I came up with this:

Yarn Book Banner 3Books, yarn, music…pretty much everything I ever write about.  And a pen to indicate the writing.  I’m thinking I might make this photo the banner for this blog.  Or maybe stage a better one.  What do you think?

Freshly Finished Friday(Edited to add:  I’m going to link this to Hard Knit Life’s Freshly Finished Friday.  Well, it contains an FO, doesn’t it?  Click the badge over there to go to the link party.  You know you want to.)

Freshly Finished Friday: Hot off the blocking wires

I’ve had busy fingers the last few weeks. Behold:

Before blocking
Before blocking
This beauty came off the blocking wires this morning.

Pattern: Ironwork Shawl from Interweave Knits Spring 2012 (click here for the Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Cascade Dolce in Teal, approx 57 yards; Cascade Superwash 220 in Red, approx. 82 yards
Needles: US size 10.5 straight; US size 11 circular
Process/ Satisfaction with end result: This little shawl is a superfast knit with that worsted weight yarn. The pattern is well-written and easy to follow.

After blocking
After blocking
I wish it had a chart, because I prefer charts when knitting lace, but the written instructions were perfectly clear.

I should really learn to trust that blocking fixes a lot of perceived issues. When this first came off the needles, I thought: Well, the colors are nice together, but I’m not too sure about the whole mixing of these totally disparate lace patterns. Then, after blocking, I fell head over heels in love. It’s gorgeous.

Before blocking
Before blocking
Two other projects came out of the same skein of vibrant orange yarn.

This hat is another example of how blocking changes a project from a crumpled mess that doesn’t seem large enough for a child into a fabulous beret suitable for the most discriminating of beret wearers.

Pattern: Rustling Leaves by Alana Dakos (click here for the Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Savannah Sock by Copper Corgi Yarn Studio in colorway “Devil’s Kiss”, approx 152 yards

After blocking
After blocking
Needles: US Size 2; US Size 3
Process/ Satisfaction with end product: Alana Dakos writes the most beautiful patterns. Her instructions are clear and concise; her charts are phenomenal; and I’ve yet to encounter any errata in anything of hers I’ve done, so she must have a fabulous vetting team. She’s easily my favorite designer. (Just because she hails from the county where I grew up doesn’t mean I’m partial or anything. Really.) This little hat is no exception to the high quality work I’ve come to expect from Ms. Dakos. It’s a breeze to knit, and fun, and cute as can be.

Just for grins, here's another photo of the hat so you can see the lacy leaves a little better.
Just for grins, here’s another photo of the hat so you can see the lacy leaves a little better.

We'll always have Paris.
We’ll always have Paris.
The third project completed was also lace: a scarf, this time.

Pattern: Raha Scarf by Nancy Bush (click here for Ravelry project page)
Yarn: Savannah Sock by Copper Corgi Yarn Studio in colorway “Devil’s Kiss”, approx 198 yards
Needles: US Size 4
Process/ Satisfaction with end product: My gauge was way off on this, and by the time I realized it, I was several inches into the scarf and didn’t want to rip it back and go to a larger needle. Knowing that the project would need a good hard block to make the specified width, I added an extra repeat of the lace pattern to make up for the extra tight gauge; even then, the scarf blocked out three inches shorter than the pattern specified. Good written instructions and an excellent lace chart. The lace pattern is not your usual leaves and flowers; it’s reminiscent of filet crochet, in fact. I like it a lot.

Freshly Finished FridayThat’s it from me for Freshly Finished Friday. Click the badge over there, follow the link-up at the bottom of the post, and take a gander at what other folks have accomplished this week.

WIP Wednesday: What Once Was Lost Edition

A funny thing happens when one straightens up the clutter in one’s craft room. One finds a project that one had forgotten one started. By the way, one = yours truly, in case you hadn’t figured that part out yet.

Orange Sampler Afghan 1This is a sampler afghan made from some vintage Rowan Plaid (the orange multi) and a chunky wool blend (the solid) from um, Plymouth? Plymouth Encore Chunky, maybe? The ball band is long gone on the solid rust-colored yarn, so I’m relying on a vague memory. I have enough of these two yarns left to make another square plus a border. Each piece is roughly one square foot, so it currently measures about 3×4. With the addition of a thick border, maybe in simple double crochet or perhaps more decorative in some kind of shell stitch, I can finish it off at about “lapghan” size. Boom! A Christmas present for somebody somewhere.

Mom's Tunisian 16Speaking of presents, I’m also still plugging away at The Tunisian Terror for my mother. Egad, how bored am I with this project? *hangs head in shame* So bored that I look for any excuse not to work on it, but gradually the squares are adding up. Currently at 34 squares, so not quite halfway done. According to the pattern, I’m almost finished with the solid squares; the multi-colored ones are coming up shortly. At least that will be something different.

Rustling Russet 2Further speaking of gifts, and guilt, I’ve officially started my first Christmas gift of the year. I know! It’s a miracle! Here’s where the guilt comes in. I looked at my list of people I had promised to make gifts for (or had decided on my own they were deserving of a handmade item because they were generally all-around awesome human beings), and nearly fell over. This is a list of somewhere around 40 names, because it includes the last three years’ worth of “pay-it-forward” hand-made gifty challenges I had left undone. *more head hanging in shame going on* And one name that had been crossed off had to be added back because his present vanished somewhere in the mail between Atlanta and the West Coast city where he resides. (Don’t even get me started on that loss.) That being said, and no longer wishing to live as a guilt-ridden hag, I started a hat with stash yarn (Copper Corgi Savannah Sock in “Devil’s Kiss”) and a stash pattern (Rustling Leaves by Alana Dakos).

After I had gotten about three inches into the hat, I realized I should have used a long tail cast-on instead of a knitted cast-on because that bottom ribbed edge isn’t really sturdy. I mean it won’t unravel or anything, but it’s kind of wobbly and insubstantial. Stitch Along WednesdayAt that point in the knitting, however, I also realized I didn’t want to rip back the last three days’ work and start over, so I’ll persevere. I think it will be okay. When the hat is worn, no one will be able to tell, anyway, right? Right? Please tell me I’m right.
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This post is part of Stitch Along Wednesdays, hosted by Gracey’s Goodies. Click that badge over there to see what other folks are up to this week, and link your own WIP Wednesday story!

Book review: The Innocence Device by William Kowalski

The Innocence DeviceThe Innocence Device by William Kowalski
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the near future, the United States is divided into prisons, and the majority of the men in the country — especially men of color — are prisoners. The majority of the women serve as guards. People are sentenced to prison for the most minor of infractions committed as children, and then sentence after sentence is piled on top of the already-incarcerated individual for things like insubordination (i.e., talking back to a guard), theft (i.e., taking an extra food allotment), or any number of other potential crimes. Here’s the rub, though: virtually everything is a crime. This is “zero tolerance” run wild.

Within the prison, a hierarchy has evolved that determines where one lives and what sort of privileges one may receive. Our hero, 24-year-old Chago, is a poor laborer whose only goal involves seeing his son (by one of the prison guards) as often as he can. When the warden of the prison announces the invention of new technology that can determine one’s innocence or guilt, Chago is eager to step through the Innocence Device. He knows he didn’t do anything really wrong — in fact, he’s not entirely sure why he’s in prison; he only knows he was about six or seven when he was first sentenced — and he’s certain the Innocence Device will set him free. Alas, all is not as it seems, and when a prison riot begins, Chago’s entire world is thrown into chaos.

Great premise, right? It’s why I signed up for this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. Sadly, the writing itself failed to live up to that premise. This short novella — hardly more than a short story, really — can’t seem to make up its mind whether it was written for an adult or a YA audience. The language is simple, perhaps written at about a fifth- or sixth-grade level, but the protagonist is an adult in his early 20s. The copy is printed in large type with widely spaced lines, which is why I say it’s hardly more than a short story. Had it been printed in normal-sized book type with normally spaced lines, its length would have most likely been around 50 or so pages: a lengthy short story, yes, but still a short story. Plot development is minimal, character development is somewhat better (for Chago, at any rate), both of which generally can be forgiven in fiction of this length. However, there’s a gaping plot hole in the last few pages that, combined with the simplistic grade-school language, left this reader deeply dissatisfied. This plot hole almost feels like the author wrote something else in between the last chapter and the epilogue that he later took out, but he didn’t go back and smooth out the edges of the excision.

The premise of The Innocence Device is one I would enjoy seeing rewritten in adult-oriented language, and greatly expanded with more plot development, more character detail, more of the whys and the hows, the politics and the social disorder that must have led to such circumstances as exist within this novel. As I read through it (which took about 40 minutes — really, it’s just that short), I could almost see the full-length novel lurking in the shadows of each paragraph, waiting for someone like Hugh Howey, maybe, or Ben H. Winters, or (be still, my heart) China Miéville to flesh it out and bring it to life.

Too bad one of them didn’t think of it. Hey, Mr. Kowalski! Will you sell this idea to China Miéville and make me a happy woman? No? Two stars for you, then.

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Book review: Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A meditative ramble through the lives of two French Jesuits sent to the United States to take over administering the New Mexico diocese in the latter half of the 19th Century, Death Comes for the Archbishop is filled with poetic descriptions of the mesas and the desert and peppered with bits and pieces of Native American religious belief. It’s difficult to describe how a simple novel that follows the quotidian existence of priests and their parishioners in a harsh, unforgiving land can be so lyrical and so profoundly moving, so maybe you can just take my word for it. And while the title is technically a spoiler, there’s really no surprise here. Truly, in the end, Death comes for us all.

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Book review: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Sharp ObjectsSharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although Sharp Objects is my third Gillian Flynn novel, it’s Ms. Flynn’s first, for which she won a well-deserved Edgar. It’s beautifully written, deeply disturbing, and knock-your-socks-off holy-cow-what-the-hell-just-happened good.

Camille Preaker is sent by the editor of the tiny Chicago daily where she works back to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, which is little more than a wide spot in the road, to cover the story of two murdered girls and the potential story of a serial killer. Camille left Wind Gap years ago to escape her toxic family and save her own life. She’s not sure she’s managed to do either; in Chicago, while she may have been suicidal, at least she wasn’t carving words into her own skin. Still, Camille is severely damaged. When we meet her mother and stepfather, we begin to understand why.

Because her newspaper doesn’t have the budget to put her up in a motel while on assignment, Camille must stay in her family home while she is in town. Her mother Adora, with an eye to “what would the neighbors think?”, grudgingly grants Camille shelter but insists she keep “all that unpleasantness” out of her house. All that unpleasantness encompasses not only the murders of the two girls, but anything unpleasant that has ever happened, up to and including the death of Camille’s younger half-sister Marian when Camille was 13. Camille has another much younger half-sister, Amma, whom she barely knows, who at times seems just as sickly as Marian was, but at others is robust enough to excel in her “Mean Girl” “Queen Bee” role at the local middle school. Throw in Alan, Camille’s ineffective and virtually silent stepfather, and this dysfunctional family is complete.

We see all this through Camille’s eyes; we are privy to her inner dialogue with all its twists and turns and justifications and attempts to make sense of how she ended up back in the same hellhole she tried to escape. As she reacquaints herself with Wind Gap, she recalls incidents from her past associated with each place. In the park where one girl, Natalie, was last seen alive:

The dirt from the baseball field hovered a few feet above the ground. I could taste it the back of my throat like tea left brewing too long…Garrett Park was the place everyone met on weekends to drink beer or smoke pot or get jerked off three feet into the woods. It was where I was first kissed, at age thirteen, by a football player with a pack of chaw tucked down in his gums.

And getting ready for Natalie’s funeral:

My mother was wearing blue to the funeral…She also wore blue to Marian’s funeral, and so did Marian. She was astonished I didn’t remember this. I remembered Marian being buried in a pale pink dress. This was no surprise. My mother and I generally differ on all things concerning my dead sister.

Camille is more resilient than she knows, but not quite as strong as she needs to be. She drinks too much and too often. She writes the names of the murdered girls and other words on her skin, using ballpoint pen and lipstick instead of a knife. She has questionable judgment in sex partners. And investigating these murders eventually leads her deep into her own history with devastating consequences.

In Camille, Gillian Flynn has created a deeply flawed protagonist who makes bad decisions out of weakness, out of trauma, out of a desire to flee from raw emotion, and she makes us cheer for her even while we shake our heads in dismay at her poor choices. And in the end, I loved Camille and wished her the very best future she can possibly make for herself.

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Book review: Let’s All Kill Constance by Ray Bradbury

Let's All Kill Constance: A NovelLet’s All Kill Constance: A Novel by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My favorite author in the world can write clunkers, or so it seems. How else to explain why it took 11 days to finish a novel that barely cracks 200 pages?

On a dark and stormy night (literally — that’s how the novel opens), circa 1960, Constance Rattigan bursts through the door of our narrator’s rustic beach house — panicked, incoherent, completely rattled — and tosses two phone books at him. Ominously, some of the names in the phone books are scratched through, and some are circled. Those scratched-through names are already dead. Those circled, our narrator surmises, soon will be. But Constance is gone too quickly to be questioned, and thus our narrator sets off on his quest to (a) solve the mystery of the circled and scratched-through names and (b) find Constance. This quest takes him from his peaceful retreat in Venice Beach to the rattletrap Grauman’s Chinese Theater projection room, to the depths of the storm drains running beneath the City of Angels, and many odd points between.

Along the way, our narrator picks up various cohorts, including a police officer, a film producer, and a blind man, and involves each of them in his quixotic search. Copious quantities of alcoholic beverages are consumed, clues are gathered, and Exclamation! Points! That! Don’t! Make! Sense! Pepper! All! Dialogue! (Admittedly, as much as I usually admire the man’s writing, this is a Bradbury trademark that I’ve never liked.) All is revealed in an homage to Agatha Christie locked room mystery, with our narrator as Hercule Poirot and all the players gathered in one room for the dénouement.

The pacing is breathless and breakneck, and much of the story seems to rely on a subtext that I just couldn’t get. I will give The Great Man this much credit: flashes of his customary brilliance shine through here and there, in character descriptions, in some of our narrator’s internal musings, and especially in the “locked-room” bit near the end of the story. Mostly though, I was thoroughly confused.

Thus only two stars for “It was OK.” And I can’t tell you how much it pains me to give my beloved Bradbury only two stars.

P.S. In reading through some of the other reviews of Let’s All Kill Constance, it appears this is the third book in a series, which may explain why I was left scratching my head at times.

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