Monday, January 18, 2010

One more word about four-legged protagonists ...

... and then I'll return to my anthropocentric focus tomorrow.

Why read a book narrated by a dog without concealing the fact from your friends? If J.F. Englert wrote the book, because he chooses his words carefully. He narrates hilarious events in deliberately everyday language. He understates that which he might easily have overstated.

His Randolph, canine narrator and protagonist, is of scholarly temperament — a great reader when the opportunity presents itself, eager to communicate with humans but unable to do so save with great difficulty. Quite naturally, his contemplative turn of mind and bookish preferences result in occasional formality of speech in his address to us, the readers.

He has a voice, in other words, about all one can ask of a fictional character no matter how many legs he or she has.
***
Check this space tomorrow for a post about humans.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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18 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

I will say that the covers become more attractive once you know it's Randolph. Although it's a bit hard to completely forget the "dogs playing poker" similarity.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'd say "A Dog Among Diplomats" is probably the best of the three covers, but it, too, has a problem. It depicts the Randolph-like dog in a dinner jacket with his arms -- and they are very much arms, which gets to the heart of the matter -- folded (though the UN backdrop is a nice touch). And the cover to "A Dog About Town" has him in a smoking jacket gripping a pipe just as a human would. Trouble is, Randolph's lack of humanlike manual dexterity is an issue in all the books. The artist and publisher could not get away from the idea that a dog in a book has to be a cute human.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

According to an Associated Press report, Robert B Parker died at his desk on January 18, 2010

January 19, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

The only one I read was Poodle Springs although I did watch that Spenser show on TV.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Well, that's sad news.


I've only read one or two of them two myself, but I liked them. And I did watch Spenser for a long time.

Dying at your desk is kind of like dying in the saddle for a writer, I imagine. Don't anyone here do it anytime soon, though.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I'm at work now, and the copy desk chief just asked me to vet Parker's obituary for mistakes. The obit writer had awarded him an extra Edgar.

My v-word is not the most felicitous for a blog converned mainly with popular fiction: trashi

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I lived in Boston around the time Parker first became popular. I read The Godwulf Manuscript and a few others.

Poodle Springs might have made a suitable topic for a recent discussion here on updating Chandler and other classic crime authors (though Chandler himself denied that anyone had written a "classic" crime story).

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you apparently liked the TV series more than Parker did. His Associated Press obituary paraphrases him as having said that the only thing he liked about it was the residual checks.

What would be my equivalent of dying in the saddle? Expiring as I put the finishing touches on my résumé, maybe.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger seana said...

Oh, surely not. That would just be irony. Yours should either be in the mid of a blog post. I was trying to think of something more appropriate but decided not to give you any ideas.

I kind of remember now that Parker did not like the show, now you mention it. I'm sure it wasn't really quite the same thing. But I'll bet it did earn him a ton of new fans over time.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Poodle Springs aint a bad ref in a dog related post either.

I thought it was ok. I wasnt offended or anything.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, the Parker series and its spinoffs are among the more durable in crime fiction. I have heard fans grumble in recent years that Spenser may have gone on too long, that Parker's heart was more in his Jesse Stone books.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I'd always associated poodles more with an Hercule Poirot type that with Philip Marlowe. I always found Poodle Springs odd for a Chandler title.

I read Joe Gores' Maltese Falcon "perquel" some time ago. Maybe I ought to try Poodle Springs, too.

January 19, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Not to speak ill of the dead… but anybody contemplating reading “Poodle Springs” might want to give it a pass and commemorate Parker’s passing with one of his other works. The first 3 chapters of PS were written by Chandler and in spite of Parker’s valiant attempts to channel Chandler, his separate voice becomes immediately apparent in Chapter 4. As for “Poodle Springs” being an odd title, remember that Chandler’s working title for “The Long Goodbye” was “Summer in Idle Valley.” I think Chandler would have come up with a more evocative title for PS had he been able to complete it.

January 19, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

Ouch, what a terrible cover! The author would have been far better served had the publishers commissioned photographer William Wegman to photograph a black Lab in one of the many humorous, yet dignified, poses in which he captures his beloved Weimaraners.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I quite naturally had you in mind when I suggested that the "updates" post would have been an approprate place to discuss Poodle Springs. I had chosen you, of course, to represent the anti-update position.

I did not know about that working title for The Long Goodbye. That suggests that fidelity to Chandler in retaining Poodle Springs as the name may in fact have been infidelity.

January 19, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"...to represent the anti-update position." Yikes, are my responses that kneejerk predictable? Well, yes, maybe when it comes to Chandler they are. My husband says I'm one of an army of RTC devotees who set themselves up as temple guardians of Chandler's legacy. And this is while I know Chandler never wanted anybody to serve as such. He could easily defend himself; if he was so inclined.

Being a bit nitpicky... I think "Poodle Springs" is more of an homage than an update.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Those covers are odd. The cover paintings, for the first book especially, are more than competently executed. They endow their subject with personality, but the personality does not match the book as well as one would like.

Once again in possible mitigation, I'll concede that the third book presented a special challenge to the people in charge of selecting a cover. The normally somber Randolph does get carried away for various entertaining and significant reasons in the book, so I can understand why he was given a dopey expression on the cover. Still, the expression does not represent the character.

Here, by the way, is one of those Wegman photographs.

January 19, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No, I chose you as the representative simply because of your comment that "I'm not really interested in seeing anybody's update of Marlowe or any other period detective." I know that your intellectual range is wider than stamping your feet against updates. Homage -- hmm, that's intriguing, too.

January 19, 2010  

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