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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Sunday, July 26

Body Language & Mr. Holmes

James W. Hall’s Body Language visits our current interest in senility, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, with the father of the main character sliding down that slippery slope of memory loss. Alexandra Rafferty, a police photographer, recalls a philosopher she’d once read who had “determined that the present moment lasted only three to twelve seconds, and everything else was memory. ¶ Three to twelve seconds. The juicy sliver of orange you are slipping into your mouth, the sudden sour burst against the tongue, then abruptly, the next thing. The phone’s shrill ringing. Just that and only that until the next moment appears. An endless succession of brief intervals, always the present. Moments forever arising, and seconds later, forever lost. ¶ But it was also within those three to twelve seconds that the past was recalled. So that every instant of the past was hostage to the vagaries of the present. Any story of yesterday had to be refracted and colored by the narrow lens of the moment. . . . ¶ Accurate history depended on accurate journalism, good record-keeping. But how could there truly be such a thing? As a child, how was it possible to know which things to pay attention to? What to store, what to let go? . . . ¶ The same long-ago philosopher had described the past as a palimpsest, that ancient tablet that was erased again and again so new directives could be recorded there, a tablet whose surface inevitably showed the traces of previous texts. New replacing old, but the old never completely disappearing. Shadows remaining, the faint scribbles showing through, year after year, layer after layer accumulating, until the present text was little more than a muddle, a confusion of imperfectly erased sentences from the past.” Isn’t that nice? So many writers have tried to define memory, to see it for what it is so that they and the rest of us can come to grips with this horrible thing we now face: dementia and Alzheimer’s. In the distant past, everyone who grew old had loss of memory to one degree or another, but back then, old was sixty or a little more, oldsters mostly dying before they were victimized by this total memory loss. Now, when we define old as late seventies up to one hundred, more and more of us are learning the horrors of Alzheimer’s disease as we see our parents and grandparents relegated to a facility that cares for them until they die.

In the movie Mr. Holmes, an aging Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen), in his nineties when the story opens, is losing his memory, trying any remedy he can find to slow the process. He tends a number of bee hives at his country estate for the medicinal honey they produce. He journeys to post-World War II Japan to obtain a rare plant called prickly ash which is purported to slow memory loss. He is also trying to write the story of his last case in which he somehow lost a young woman who had come to him for his help. The story moves slowly as he remembers, reconstructs, the details of the case from thirty years earlier. The movie is a quiet mystery unraveled through flashbacks. The setting, mid-20th century England, consists of scenes in his country estate where he is tended to by his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker). The cupboards and furniture, the doors, the bookcases—all reek of a past that looks and smells like something we might find when we climb up to some long-forgotten attic and rummage through a chest of yellowing, musty papers. McKellen is so good in this role that he’ll undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar next year.
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