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Friday, November 27, 2015

Writing From the Grave



Robert B. Parker's Lullaby

by Ace Atkins


Authors die but their characters live on. There has been a trend over the last few decades of other writers continuing to write books using already iconic characters. The most recent of these are Robert B. Parker’s leading men Spenser and Jesse Stone. The Parker estate selected to writers to assume the mantle. Michael Brandman will pen the Jesse Stone novels while Ace Atkins will write the Spenser novels beginning with Lullaby.



Readers become familiar with the growth of a character as he changes with each new adventure. Characters evolve and become people whose lives the reader shares book after book. When the author dies the character is frozen at that moment in his evolution. Prior to this trend, a reader’s only option was to re-read the older canon if they wanted to enjoy the world of the character.



Ace Atkins writes the Spenser Series by Robert B. Parker in a manner that shows he is trying to write in Parker’s style. Over all he succeeds but there are times when the dialogue seems forced and many of the supporting characters are not as fully developed as they had been under Parker.





The Warmth of Other Suns


 The Warmth of Other Suns:  The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration 

by Isabel Wilkerson 

If you read The Help by Kathryn Stockett and want to see the bigger picture, this book is a must read. The Warmth of Other Suns is rich in detail and steeped in the flavors, both good and bad, of America in the first half of the 20th Century.

Decades after the Civil War, blacks in the American South were still living in virtual slavery through poverty, abuse, and discrimination. From the early 1900s until the 1960s, over six million southern blacks left the Jim Crow South and migrated to the North and West seeking a better life. What drove them? How did they hear about those other suns? How did they adapt to a different cultural climate? What were their stories? Isabel Wilkerson does an excellent job of answering those questions and telling their stories. After conducting hundreds of interviews, looking at thousands of public records, and reading the newspapers of the North and the South, Ms. Wilkerson challenges many of the preconceived beliefs about that period of United States history. Her detailed research won her the Pulitzer Prize but this is not just a lengthy tome on the changing demographics of America. The author interweaves those details with the lives of three main characters and anecdotes from that era. This could be the Gone With The Wind of the 20th Century with a black perspective.

I liked the way that the author wrote in vivid detail what were commonplace experiences for blacks that I will never know. Standing under a hot Southern sun picking cotton all day for pennies because the law forbade you any other work. Being heckled and threatened by a rioting mob because your family had dared to rent an apartment in a white neighborhood. Watching a young black man stoned until he drowned because he had drifted across an invisible segregation line at a Chicago beach. Even though they had migrated to a different place did not mean their lives were automatically better. Many of the experiences Ms. Wilkerson describes were marked with heartbreak but ultimately this “Great Migration” changed our nation. It changed the black families that lived it. It changed the white families that witnessed it. It changed our politics, our schools, our neighborhoods, and hopefully our hearts and minds. This book is one that stayed with me long after I put it down.




Mediated Reality

 Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa

Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa  by Alex Kershaw 


Born, from his mother’s womb: Andre Friedman October 22, 1913, Budapest, Hungary

We think that photographs are a reliability of memory. We misread them. They are statements that mediate between the what before the lens and the who behind the lens; between the what on the paper and the who of the beholder. This deconstructed elastic modulation of relationships provides us with a silvered mirror of history, a sense of context.

Alex Kershaw’s Blood and Champagne: The Life and Times of Robert Capa chronicles the deconstructed life of the photojournalist who created defining images of the Spanish Civil War and World War II with the same artistry Capa used to erase then to recreate that life. Capa’s images are so deeply buried in our consciousness that when Steven Spielberg used them as the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan we thought how realistic the image. They were but we misunderstood that reality.

“A photograph is not the thing itself. Nor is it a painting. But that does not make either of them a copy. Each becomes a new thing, a new real, new in the world, a new original.”—J. M. Coetzee, Slow Man

Magnum Photos website

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”—Robert Capa

Killed, taking photographs: Robert Capa May 25, 1954, Tai-Binh, French Indo-China.




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