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Posts Tagged ‘Agatha Christie’

Dramatic Deaths, and Other News

October 21, 2013 | by

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  • Citing health concerns, Alice Munro says she will not travel to Sweden to accept her Nobel in person.
  • “For the first time I felt myself in the presence of a talent greater than my own.” The long, strange friendship of Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin.
  • “People are messes, every one of us.” Editor Giancarlo DiTrapano talks Tyrant. 
  • For its sixtieth anniversary, the Crime Writers’ Association has asked its six hundred writer-members to choose the best crime novel of all time. Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Raymond Chandler fight it out.
  • Speaking of hot competition, the ten most dramatic deaths in fiction.

 

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Secret Book Landscapes, and Other News

September 5, 2013 | by

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  • These miniature landscapes, painted on the sides of nineteenth-century books, were recently discovered at the University of Iowa.
  • Jokes (of varying degrees of hilarity) for grammar nerds.
  • Adding to the indignity of Richard III’s parking-lot exhumation, scientists have now discovered that the monarch had worms. “Thy broken faith hath made the prey for worms,” wrote Shakespeare, calling it.
  • Speaking of cross-pond exhumation! “Exhuming Poirot is disrespectful towards Agatha Christie’s careful burial,” argues John Sutherland in the Guardian.
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    Fifty Shades of Rage, and Other News

    September 4, 2013 | by

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  • Joey Ramone sings John Cage adapting Finnegans Wake. Got that?
  • Paul Muldoon’s eulogy for Seamus Heaney.
  • Fans of the Fifty Shades series are outraged at the casting for the upcoming film adaptations; a petition is circulating and already boasts 7,300 signatures. The producer has taken to Twitter to defend himself.
  • The Agatha Christie estate has granted permission to author Sophie Hannah to write a new Poirot mystery.
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    A Week in Culture: Rutu Modan, Cartoonist

    June 27, 2013 | by

    Sunday

    I have no idea how this happened, but apparently I’ve agreed to give a talk to the entire pre-K and first grade at a local school. A total of seven classes.

    While I do, in fact, also illustrate children books, it’s really due to my interest in books and less to my interest in children. It’s not that I don’t like children—I’m quite fond of mine—but speaking to children is a bit scary. They don’t know they’re supposed to hide it if they’re bored.

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    I show the kids books I’ve illustrated, share my work methods, and even throw in a professional secret: I can’t draw horses’ feet. During the Q&A, a curly-haired girl persistently raises her hand and when I call on her she says, “My mother looks much younger than you.” But all in all, I realize that between these kids and my students at the art academy there is no big difference in understanding. Read More »

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    When Agatha Christie Was Investigated by MI5

    February 4, 2013 | by

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    One imagines that MI5 was busy during World War II. But not too busy, it would seem, to take the time to investigate Agatha Christie. Why? Well, says the Guardian,

    The answer, it can now be revealed, lay in the name of a character in her wartime novel N or M, whom she called Major Bletchley. He appears in the book as a friend of Christie’s pair of detectives, Tommy and Tuppence. In the book, published in 1941, N and M are the initials given to two of Hitler’s agents as Tommy and Tuppence hunt for the enemy within. Major Bletchley comes across as a tedious former Indian army officer who claims to know the secrets of Britain’s wartime efforts. Christie happened to be a close friend of Dilly Knox, one of the leading codebreakers at Bletchley Park. MI5 was concerned that the major’s inside knowledge of the progress of the war was based on what the codebreakers knew about Hitler’s plans. Had Christie mischievously named the character Bletchley because Knox told her what was going on there?

    The codebreakers at Bletchley Park in Buckinghamshire had broken German Enigma machine cyphers, enabling Churchill and his military commanders to know what the enemy was planning. Berlin believed Enigma was unbreakable, making it all the more essential to ensure that only a very small circle of people knew what the codebreakers at Bletchley were up to.

    What worried MI5 even more was that it was Knox who had just broken the Enigma machine cypher used by German secret service officers sending spies to Britain.

    It is almost unthinkable to imagine equal concern being lavished on the work of a modern bestseller; James Patterson and John Grisham somehow don’t seem likely tools of espionage, although it’s tempting to imagine government agents poring over the bestseller list in search of security breaches. In any event, MI5’s fears were unfounded. When confronted, Christie responded, “Bletchley? My dear, I was stuck there on my way by train from Oxford to London and took revenge by giving the name to one of my least lovable characters.”

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    Book Shopping with the Best-Read Man in America

    December 28, 2012 | by

    We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!

    I was dragging my five-year-old daughter through the musty stacks of my favorite used bookstore last spring when a middle-aged man, squatting in the Sci-Fi section next to a brimming cardboard box, caught my eye and reminded me of someone.

    “Excuse me,” I asked, “are you a writer?”

    “I am,” he said, standing up and straightening his glasses. His eyes were deep set and hard to read. He was bashful.

    “Are you Michael Dirda?” I asked.

    “I am.”

    It was him: the book critic and author, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, known apocryphally as the best-read man in America, whose essays had enticed me to read everything from Little, Big to Three Men in a Boat—and here he was, squinting his way through the lowest shelves in the same crusty bargain dungeon I came to all the time.

    “Amazing. Nina, this is the man who wrote that little letter that we have in your George and Martha,” I told my daughter. Nina was nonplussed.

    “When I was eight, in 1992,” I explained, “I wrote a letter to the Washington Post when James Marshall died and you printed it in the Book World section and even wrote a sweet little response. And her grandpa put a photocopy of that letter in The Complete George and Martha for her.”

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