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Anonymity by John Mullan
Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
A Barnstormer in Oz by Philip José Farmer
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Fort Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History by Albert E. Cowdrey
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My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8

Comments for Fort Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History

FSFFort Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History: 01/08/11

In my earlier rant in lieu of review of "Waiting for the Phone to Ring" by Richard Bowes, I mentioned my love/hate relationship with Albert E. Cowdrey's short stories. "For Clay, Louisiana: A Tragical History" goes into the hate category.

First and foremost, I don't especially like framing stories in literary fiction. When there's a narrator who is hanging out with characters and they all snuggle up to hear his story, my eyes start to glaze over. It feels like I'm hearing it third hand or something. There's nothing for me to connect to, no personal point of contact with me and the characters, no matter how many amazing plot points there might be.

Take for instance, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Looking just at the plot: a man in search of another man presumed lost in the upper Congo, the novel is both a mystery and a study of the human psyche. But it's presented in a lame framing story with a bloke on a ship stuck in a storm telling about his adventures to a bunch of bored passengers. They're bored and I'm bored.

That's exactly what happens with the Fort Clay story (and many of the other Cowdrey stories I don't like). There's a photographer who has recently taken a bunch of fantastic shots of an old forgotten fort that had a minor role in the Civil War. A bloke comes over to see her photos and begins to tell its "tragical history" to her. Even though there are mysterious and horrific events in the past (and later in the present), the framing story has put me into full on bored mode.

The other problem I had with the story is it's title. See it's very similar to the excellent Neil Gaiman and David Keene, The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch. So part of me was wishing the story had David Keene illustrations. It probably would have been better that way in the same way that Apocalypse Now is a more compelling story than Heart of Darkness is.

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