Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bookish travel notes from an unbookish vacation

New in Krimis:  Or new to me.  Animal mysteries.  Zoo mysteries.  These categories might overlap.  After the success of Glennkill: Ein Schafskrimi (2005), in which a flock of sheep solve a murder, a wave of animal detectives was inevitable, but I was not expecting a novel in which the sleuths are a pair of meerkats, a book I held in my hands in a Viennese bookstore.  If you had an idea for a mystery starring a raccoon or a flock of crows but thought, no, the whole thing is much too stupid, I say squelch your doubts and write the dang thing before someone beats you to it.  Cash in.

Similarly, we came across a Krimi in which the detective was Theodor Storm, who in fact did help solve crimes in his role as a judge in Husum, although the novel is set long before that, and before he wrote his great uncanny novellas, when Storm was a young Romantic poet.  Who investigated murders.  What a bad idea.  But now my own notion of a series of mysteries starring Marcel Proust only looks half as dumb.  The enigmatic stranger with the prosthetic leg, who may be the killer but turns out to be an ally, is Arthur Rimbaud.  Faked his death.  I’m giving that away for free.  I’m  not gonna write any Proust mysteries.  See above – the time is right for your series of Detective Whitman / Inspector Eliot / Special Agent Tzara mysteries.  Do not hesitate.  Either Eliot; both would make terrific detectives.  Tristan Tzara is the Dada Detective – good, right?  Better than Theodor Storm or a pair of meerkats.

Meine Frau read a zoo mystery, Das Schweigen des Lemming (The Silence of the Lemming, 2006) by Stefan Slupetzky, in which Lemming, a security guard at the Tiergarten Schönbrunn in Vienna investigates the death of a penguin, which maybe sounds a little thin, but it turns out the novel is full of detail about Vienna’s art world, including, for example, the 2003 theft of the Cellini Salt Cellar, which I finally got to see with my own eyes.

At one point – this is all secondhand, since I could not read the book myself – an informant needs to meet with Lemming.  Knowing the detective is a fan of Thomas Bernhard, he suggests they meet in the Kunsthistoriches Museum – “You know where.”  He means in the Titian room, in front of the painting “Man with a White Beard,” the setting of Old Masters (1985).  It had been so long since Lemming read Bernhard’s novel that he has to run to the bookstore to look up which painting is meant, but still, do you see what I am getting at here?

In Vienna, the stature of Thomas Bernhard is so high that in a mystery about the death of a penguin it is assumed that readers are comfortable with casual references to specific elements of Bernhard novels.  We stumbled upon Bernhard frequently, even in the Jewish Museum (Bernhard was not Jewish), where a clip from one of his plays was deployed ironically.  The Vienna-Bernhard phenomenon is unusual.

That Titian room is magnificent.  Like the room with the Cellini, it was closed the last time I was in Vienna.

Well, that’s something.  My post-vacation resolution is to make Wuthering Expectations more breezy and shallow.  Off to a good start.  Tomorrow, I will continue with a book I have read rather than books I have seen but cannot read.

28 comments:

  1. I hope you are refreshed and flying high like the reincarnated phoenix after your vacation. I react to your wonderful posting by sketching out my Dickens-as-detective crime novel (perhaps with Wilkie Collins as his sidekick) -- but wait, Dan Simmons somewhat beat me to the punch -- and so I must content myself (also revivified through some miracle of modern medicine) with reading, blogging, and -- along the way -- enjoying the musings of AR(T). As always, I look forward to what you post next. Now, as I wait, I think I will resume my rereading of _Great Expectations_. All the best to you from the Gulf coast curmudgeon.

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  2. Hello,

    I hope you had a great trip. How is Vienna? I'm heading there in a couple of weeks.
    I love to visit bookstores abroad too, even if I can't read the language. (Try a Hungarian bookstore!)

    Welcome back and say hi to deine Frau.

    Emma

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    1. My food tip below is unfortunately no good in October. Plenty else to eat, though.

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  3. The next Krimi I plan to read is set at a zoo, though the detectives, victim and perp are all, I believe, humans.

    When we were in Vienna two years ago, the big novel was the one about Hitler reanimated or whatever it was. I didn't read it but it was in all the shops.

    We'll be in Paris in a couple of months. What's "Krimi" in French? Will they sell French Krimis at Shakespeare & Company?

    I don't actually read that many Krimis.

    Wilkommen zurück!

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  4. The Dickens-as-detective series is a much better idea better than most. I mean, someone has actually written Oscar Wilde-as-detective mysteries, and that's a terrible idea. What I would do is populate each novel entirely with Dickens characters. Dickens meets the characters in real life, solves the murder, and then writes a novel featuring all of those characters, except rearranged to conform with Dickens's sunny, Christmasy view of life. I would basically have Dickens be an idiot. Your Dickens-as-detective series might be different than mine.

    Vienna was wonderful. I have a tip for you, Emma - there is an outdoor movie festival by the Rathaus in the city center, but forget the movie, the festival also has an outstanding, varied, reasonably priced food court. Great spot for evening food and drink.

    So true about foreign bookstores - so informative.

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  5. I believe the French equivalent of "Krimi" is "polar." Here we see Emma visiting the Quais du Polar in Lyon earlier this year.

    The variety of German-language Krimis is hard to believe. Then add all of the mysteries available in translation.

    Just imagine, reading that zoo mystery, that the detective is an orangutan. Or a seal. Just to see what happens. A Borgesian exercise.

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    1. "Série Noire "? Or is that just pulp/hardboiled?

      The problem with writer=detectives is which writer would be a convincing detective? Francis Bacon may not have written Shakespeare but he'd be a better detective. Induction instead of deduction, though I can't see Shakespeare as a Watson. Perhaps he could be a Moriarty.

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    2. That's it! The French for Krimi is polar.

      Emma

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  6. "more breezy and shallow"; judging by the recent past, i think my brain will keep up. or down. anyway, sounds like an excellent time abroad. ganz willkomen oder etwas.

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  7. "Série Noire" - I don't know how that term is used. Francis Bacon is a good idea, although those books would be a lot of work. Shakespeare as villain - that is a really good idea.

    It was a good time abroad. Several days in Berlin were especially productive. Some of the upcoming shallowness will be forced by circumstances - but let's make a virtue of necessity, yes?

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  8. "Série Noire" was the name Gallimard gave to its line of crime novels. It was originally edited by Marcel Duhamel; Jacques Prévert came up with the name. There was also a short-lived "Série Blême," devoted to less hard-boiled novels.

    I don't know who would make a good detective-writer. Shelley might be fun. He'd make a mess of things.

    Welcome back!

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    1. There's a marvelous book of cocktails taken from the Série Noire (in French, of course).

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  9. Jacques Prévert, no kidding!

    Shelley would certainly be fun. Never solves a case, and his investigation leads to more crime and mayhem. Maybe his wife actually solves the mysteries.

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    1. Perhaps the crime to be solved in Shelley's not-so-accidental drowning. Mary rounds up the suspects. The rest . . . TBA

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  10. Glad you had a good trip! It is nice to have you back.

    Zoo mysteries? That's new to me and strikes me as completely crackpot. However, I could totally get on board with your Proust mysteries :)

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  11. The second crime to be solved by Keats must be the murder of Lucy by psychopathic W.W., who even bragged about his crime (and where he hid her body) in this poem:

    She dwells among the untrodden ways
    Beside the springs of Dove,
    A Maid whom there were none to praise
    And very few to love:

    A violet by a mossy stone
    Half hidden from the eye!
    Fair as a star, when only one
    Is shining in the sky.

    She lived unknown, and few could know
    When Lucy ceased to be;
    But she is in her grave, and oh,
    The difference to me!

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    1. The other WW. Not Whitman, the other other one.

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  12. Welcome back! Sounds like a terrific trip, with the discovery of a whole genre rather than just an interesting book or three. I'll bet there's more than one microbiologist writing a detective novel about viruses. Fascinating too that Vienna is so hopped-up on Bernhard. He would hate that, or pretend to anyway.

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  13. These ideas get better and better. The Romantic poets are all ripe for picking. Now I want to read a series of John Clare mysteries. Mostly he investigates the destruction of bird nests and eggs. they would be quiet books, as mysteries go.

    The embrace of Bernhard by Vienna - especially by the Viennese theater, where Bernhard is now a staple, and where Bernhard expressly forbid any performances during his lifetime - is pretty funny. The revenge of Vienna on its greatest enemy.

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    1. i vote for anthony trollope:malfeasance in barchester!

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  14. I think Aphra Behn would make a good detective. She brings the added bonus of being a playwright which means the story could be set in the world of 18th century theatre. That would be fun.

    The penguin book you mention had me thinking "I own this." Since my blog is much more "breezy and shallow" than this one, it's just the sort of thing I would read. Turns out the book I have is about a Russian detective who owns a penguin. "Death and the Penguin." I've not read it yet, but I believe the human does the crime solving.

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  15. I think one of the first to kick off the animal Krimis was Felidae by Akif Pirinçci- a Turkish-German author. It's a Katzenkrimi.

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  16. Aphra Behn would be fun, partly because no one knows what she is supposed to sound like, freeing the author. Above I mention a series of Oscar Wilde mysteries that actually exist - the voice is huge problem.

    The only problem with a Trollope series would be figuring out when he would have time to investigate a crime.

    The cat mystery is an old idea, going back to 1966 and Lillian Jackson Braun, at least - but I do not believe Braun's are from the point of view of the cat, which is a real innovation, and a nice nod to E T A Hoffmann.

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