Archive for September 29th, 2010

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The House Without a Key

September 29, 2010

So, you can thank Earl Derr Biggers for my meditations on racism yesterday. Reading up on Charlie Chan before I started The House Without a Key, I found an incredibly wide range of opinions on whether or not the depiction of Chan was racist, from “of course it isn’t; he’s a good guy,” to “the broken English and the servility are both kind of massively offensive.” So of course I read the book with the intention of forming my own opinion. And I did. I formed two, actually. One is that any depiction of a Chinese-American as a main character and a good person in the mid-1920s is a really good thing. The other is that consistently having the point-of-view characters be shocked and skeptical that a Chinese man could be a detective is kind of upsetting — and kept interrupting the flow of the story for me. Also I have issues with the way Biggers has the central character duplicate all of Chan’s work.

That said, I’m really enjoying Biggers’ books. I like his plots. I like his atmosphere. I like his characters, even when they think thoughts along the lines of “I seem to be involved with three different women. Huh.” Read the rest of this entry ?

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The Agony Column

September 29, 2010

It’s really hot in London, and Geoffrey West is coping by going to the Carlton for breakfast every morning, partly because it’s a bit cooler there, and partly because it’s the only place where you can still get strawberries. The American girl who comes in with her father one morning has the bad taste to prefer grapefruit to strawberries, but she shares West’s fondness for the Personal Notices section of the Daily Mail, AKA the agony column. People use it to discreetly send messages, whether they be love letters, “fly at one; all is discovered,” or cryptic remarks about fish. And so it seems perfectly reasonable, if a little unconventional, for West to use it to communicate with the girl, with whom he has fallen in love at first sight. Read the rest of this entry ?