The Wednesday Letters

The Wednesday Letters, by Jason F. Wright, is the second novel I will have read for The Marginal Virtues which features letters as a crucial plot device; the first, of course, being The Letter (Richard Paul Evans).

This is not the only similarity between the two works. Both are written by Americans, who are authors of other popular works. It remains to be seen whether Wright can treat the subject of The Wednesday Letters (forgiveness, according to the blurb on the dust jacket) with greater skill than Evans did the subject of The Letter.

After lengthy discussions on the abuse of power in Shades of Grey and on satire in A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder, I am going to take it easy and focus on the style of The Wednesday Letters, what I enjoyed and what I didn't care for.

The edition of The Wednesday Letters to which I shall refer in this post is the hardcover publication by Shadow Mountain in 2007. Since this book was recommended me by Jen (thanks, Jen!) from a list of books that her book club is reading, I hope that what I have to say about it comes in handy, and I should note that the book includes a link to the author's website where questions for book club discussions may be found.


A Long Title

First, an announcement: I unaccountably forgot to credit Chris for recommending Shades of Grey in my marginal commentary on that book, so consider this the official erratum. Before I forget, then, my thanks to Graham for recommending the book on which I am commenting in this post.

A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder is a book with a long name. I don't know much about James De Mille, but if his other books have titles such as this one, then he needs to work on imaginatively shortening them. But, to be fair, the title describes what gets the story going. On account of the length of the book's title, I will be referring to the book as A Strange Manuscript throughout.

De Mille is, I think, the first Canadian author I have written a post for on The Marginal Virtues, and the second (after Aristotle; for whom, it must be said, I have not yet written a commentary proper) whose work was written before the twentieth century to be featured on this blog.

The edition I read for this blog is the New Canadian Library edition, published originally by McClelland and Stewart in 1969 (reprinted in 1985). It is the 68th in the series, so it would be worth a look to see what other titles preceded and followed it.

It has frequently been my practice to read the scholarly introduction to works such as this, and then to neglect or only haphazardly read the works themselves; for this commentary I have foregone reading the introduction (I will wait, as with Ender's Game, until after I have finished the book itself).


July Selections

As I noted in my recent update, the selections for July would be from the books listed 'on the back burner', so to speak.

And here they are: the three books I have selected at random to read and comment upon in July. I was lazy and chose from only those books which I happen to have immediate access to, but that still gave me a fair number of books to choose from.

Congratulations to those of you whose recommendations were selected this time!

Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross.

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.

One Simple Act, by Debbie Macomber.

Thanks to Matt, dee, and Nanci for your recommendations on previous occasions which have finally been selected.

For those of you whose recommendations are still on the waiting list, don't worry; I will be choosing from a wider selection in August.


Update: On the Back Burner

The marginal commentaries on A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder and The Wednesday Letters are in progress, and will be finished before the end of the month, which will mark the second, or possibly just the first, time I have completed all of the books I selected to read for a month in the month I meant to read and write about them.

Within a day or two I will be choosing books to read for July. For next month, I will select three books from the list of books I have dubbed as being 'on the back burner', which are books which were recommended, but not selected. You can see what books there are for me to choose from on the page listing books read for this blog.

I haven't made up my mind to do so yet, but I am considering picking at random from the books on the list which I happen to already have in my possession, because I am feeling pretty lazy this month. I am sometimes on a tight schedule writing the commentaries when a book I am commenting upon is due back at the library in a few days.

Doing so would give me the chance, I hope, to finish writing about the Harry Potter books, as I am trying to post at least one essay on each of the books in the series before the final movie comes out in theatres. Hopefully I will also be able to complete one or two other posts of my choice, as well, such as the as yet incomplete series on Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death.

Stay tuned for the selections recommended by readers for July!


Roy G Biv

'Shades of Gray' is the name of a god-awful episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the finale of the second season, and consisted, more or less, of crewmembers watching Commander Riker lie on a bed in sickbay interspersed with clips from older episodes, which were passed off as his 'memories'.

I want to spend some time roundly abusing this episode, which may well be the worst hour of Star Trek ever. And that's including Star Trek: Nemesis... wait, what?

Oh, right! I'm actually writing about Shades of Grey, a futuristic fantastic novel by one Jasper Fforde (whose last name, being Welsh, is probably pronounced nothing like what it looks). Shades of Grey happens, by coincidence, to remind me of the short film Rainbow War from the nineteen-eighties.

One of the things that struck me about Shades of Grey was the easy, clever style in which it was written, a style which I have noticed that just about every British author, at least of the twentieth century, whom I have read possesses. As disparate a crew as C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Mr Fforde (among others) here all seem, at times, to write with elegance and wit unmatched by writers of English of other lands (most notably America, nearly all of whose popular writers - the Dan Browns, the Richard Paul Evanses, et al. - have a stylistic reach that exceeds their grasp). Fforde, as we shall see, may be said to resemble Pratchett or Adams, both of whose names are invoked on the back cover of Shades of Grey in a blurb from the L. A. Times Book Review.

I was initially thinking I would comment upon passages in which Fforde displays his effortless, breezy style, but the clever throwaway lines and oddball comments diminish as Shades of Grey continues; it turns out with good reason. Not to give too much away (not that this has stopped me in other marginal commentaries), but it transpires that Shades of Grey is the first of a series of books (of which at least three have been planned; the second, according to Mr Fforde's website, is to be published sometime in 2013). It bears a subtitle: The Road to High Saffron. While I will comment upon such witticisms as come up (the first few chapters, especially, are full of them), part of what I will comment upon is the use and abuse of power.

Here we go: