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1 july 2020

The Cask opens, a century ago, with a sharp-eyed shipping clerk named Broughton inspecting wine casks on the wharves of London. He finds one that contains, not wine, but sawdust, gold coins, and a dead body. Naturally the first thought of our able young clerk is "to report the matter to his managing director" (Chapter 1). Because, whatever about murder and all that, a chap's first responsibility is to The Firm.     read more

30 june 2020

Early in The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) we are introduced to the castle called Wolf's Crag,

which, tall and narrow, and built of a greyish stone, stood glimmering in the moonlight, like the sheeted spectre of some huge giant. A wilder or more disconsolate dwelling it was perhaps difficult to conceive. The sombrous and heavy sound of the billows, successively dashing against the rocky beach at a profound distance beneath, was to the ear what the landscape was to the eye—a symbol of unvaried and monotonous melancholy, not unmingled with horror. (Chapter 7)
Can you get more Gothic than that? It's as if Walter Scott were describing the set for an opera, though it would be a few years till Gaetano Donizetti composed Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), and Scott would expire before seeing it.     read more

29 june 2020

In Norwegian, Kjell Ola Dahl's 2010 crime novel Faithless is called Kvinnen i plast, "Woman in Plastic." A common if disturbing way of encountering women in police procedurals: dead, wrapped up, and stuffed in dumpsters. Frank Frølich, ace Oslo detective, is especially disturbed to find this particular wrapped woman, because he'd just been getting to know her. In fact, he'd busted her for cocaine possession – only to learn shortly afterwards that she was the fiancée of one of his childhood friends.     read more

28 june 2020

Jerzy Andrzejewski's Holy Week is an appallingly powerful novel, a thrilling parallel to Andrzej Szczypiorski's Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman, and an indelible image of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the spring of 1943.     read more