Saturday, April 04, 2009

Body of Evidence

Patricia Cornwell first popped on my radar in 2002ish when I saw her on cable tv talking about her book, Portrait Of A Killer: Jack The Ripper -- Case Closed. It caught my attention because she was talking about how everybody has this kind of fascination with Jack the Ripper, turning him into legend, while the people he killed are practically forgotten in the gory, bloody footnotes. Then she proceeded to delve right into those details. I changed the channel.

A few years later I was taking a class on 19th & 20th c. British Art and studying an artist named Walter Sickert when I remembered Cornwell. Sickert, like most Londonerns, was fascinated with Jack the Ripper and painting a series sort of based on them. Sickert's the person Cornwell decided was Jack the Ripper. My professor was sort of loathe to even acknowledge this, but anywho said her conclusion is largely disputed, at least by art historians.

What was rather interesting to me, just having had read The Big Sleep, was how influential that book was the contemporary detective novel. And now I've just started reading Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon, which is so far a sort of defense of "genre" writing, or, in this case, the murder mystery/detective novel, and Cornwell's book def. fits the description of the very "entertainment" (read: not high-literature) book that Chabon is defending. Maybe. I'm only on like page 20.

Anyway, just to prove how low-brow and Chandler-like it is, I'll leave you with this quote from Body of Evidence, which was at once my favorite bit and the most ridiculous:

[...] I stared out at the day, and never had the colors been so bright or the sun shone so magnificently on the tiny offshore island of Key West. I would buy a condo where Mark and I would make love for the rest of our lives. I would ride a bicycle for the first time since I was a child, take up tennis again, and quit smoking. [...] I would watch sunlight dance of the sea and say prayers to a woman named Beryl Madison whose terrible death had given new meaning to my life and taught me to love again.

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