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16 August 2009 @ 08:48 pm
Adding Rex Stout  
to the list of authors who Make Shit Up. Still, he writes a good story (yes, Archie Goodwin is racist, and Nero Wolfe probably is, too, but more subtly. I take the era in which the books were written into account), so I will continue reading him.

In Some Buried Caesar, he has both a bull and a human die from being injected with anthrax cultured from another bull. Which would be fine, except that they die within minutes of being injected.
Tim Illingworthtimill on August 17th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
My copies are in a box somewhere, so I can't check.

As I recall, Nero has a major anti-racist speech in Too Many Cooks which was written in about 1939(?), which reappears in some other book around 1955.

Again IIRC, Archie says he doesn't need race to feel superior to someone as he knows he's superior anyway.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on August 17th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
I believe you're right, and Wolfe does make a fairly anti-racist speech, again especially for the era, in Too Many Cooks. I also seem to require him chiding Archie for racism in Fer-de-Lance, the first book.

Archie may not need race to feel superior, but he uses rather more racial epithets (wop, kike, and n* come to mind) than I'm comfortable with.

Edited at 2009-08-17 02:15 am (UTC)
Skye: bluebonnetspagawne on August 17th, 2009 02:28 am (UTC)
Yes, but Archie is an "equal opportunity racist", he doesn't really like anyone who isn't him.
redneckgaijinredneckgaijin on August 17th, 2009 05:33 am (UTC)
One of the minor (but pivotal) characters in Too Many Cooks hires Wolfe about twenty-five years later, in the 60s, in A Right to Die. Long before that point Archie has lost his rough edges, especially with concern to ethnic/racial epithets. Although a less-than-satisfying mystery, as a character study it's got its points, and I recommend it.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on August 17th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've read A Right to Die. I'll have to keep an eye out for it.
redneckgaijinredneckgaijin on August 18th, 2009 12:09 am (UTC)
I could drop my copy off at starcat_jewel's next time I'm down- probably just before Labor Day, when I have to pick up stuff for AnimeFEST.
Peter Engdornbeast on August 17th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
I find that the only way I can read the Nero Wolfe stories is to remind myself that Archie is, and always will be, a product of the 1930s, and that compared with people today, he's unacceptably racist, in much the same way that people in Mark Twain's writing are.
Kats: OMG Donnawildrider on August 17th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)
Well, I hate to say this, but, um, isn't that what fiction authors are supposed to do? Make. Stuff. Up.? That's kinda what I do, all those vampires and such... *g*

Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on August 17th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
There's making stuff up, like vampires, and there's making shit up, like having anthrax kill in minutes rather than hours. If it had been some kind of weaponized anthrax I might have been willing to suspend my disbelief, but this was just the plain old ordinary stuff.
Kats: Not Crazy by thetopdownwildrider on August 17th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Well, apparently that's what readers want. Dan Brown's stuff is all made up fiction but everyone believes it.
Tim Illingworthtimill on August 18th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
I think the bull dies overnight? And the human may have injected himself earlier and just died after being confronted by Wolfe and Archie?

But I'm guessing you've recently reread it so you're more likely right than I am.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on August 18th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking the bull died within a couple of hours. The human was confronted, went to his truck and injected himself, and came back to write out his confession before he died in 20 minutes. Assuming I didn't misread it.
Xiphias Gladiusxiphias on August 17th, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
Mystery writers are supposed to stick within how poisons, diseases, weapons, injuries, and so forth actually work, though. It's one of the conventions of the genre. But it's not universally followed -- and, indeed, there are subgenres within mystery in which things that are either not true or are misleading are treated as true, as part of the convention.

The classic example of this is "cyanide smells like bitter almonds."

Well, that's true. But why can everybody detect it, then? Do YOU know what bitter almonds smell like? I sure don't. I know what sweet almonds taste like, but bitter almonds aren't available around here -- because they have cyanide in them, so you can't get them.
Cymru Llewescymrullewes on August 17th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
Isn't it supposed to be like peach pits?
Kats: Billy the Kidwildrider on August 17th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
Authors take license when writing fiction for a variety of reasons, whether it's simple lack of knowledge through incomplete research or a desire to heighten dramatic effect. And yeah, I get irritated at authors who DON'T do their research (especially something simple), but on the whole, if a writer of thrillers finds it more thrilling to have anthrax kill instantly (even knowing his audience will not suspend disbelief in that case), that's his call. Maybe he'll come to regret it, or maybe he'll just have a rapid sect of readers/followers who believe what he writes instead of the actual facts.

I'm getting to the point where I find I can't say anything -- they're published, after all, and I cannot reach that state myself, even though my fantastic fantasy is researched to a correct fare-thee-well. Maybe they know something I don't.

Jim Hetleyjhetley on August 17th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Perhaps Nero Wolfe operates in a parallel universe in which anthrax kills in that fashion? After all, we don't have Heron automobiles on *our* Manhattan streets . . .
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on August 17th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Hm. A good point.
TSJAFOtsjafo on August 17th, 2009 03:25 pm (UTC)
I try too take the racism into account within the era it was written. If I recall correctly this has been oft cited as a problem with Tom Sawyer.

One of my favorite books is Penrod and Sam by Booth Tarkington, written about a twelve year old boy (boy being defined as a male child under the age of 13) growing up in America circa 1910. The racism (and sexism) is there but it is not meant to be an indictment of a race but as a cultural framework for the time it was written.

I've always enjoyed the book as a coming of age story and the wonderful predicaments the characters find themselves in. I suggested a young woman of color read the book with an eye to updating it for a contemporary setting and she was so highly offended I lost a friendship.

I still think the idea has very much to recommend it, but I'm not nearly capable of even understanding the gender perspective in a way that comes close to relevance and reality. This IS a hint for anyone interested, even to writing installments from different characters and perspectives in the same neighborhood.

As for playing fast and loose with the science, I've notice Stout does that from time to time. Either because he doesn't know as much about the science as we do today (possible) or he just fits the science into the story (much more likely), I don't think his target readership would know the difference. Again, I think this is such a wonderful series I'd love to see a well done sequel. The ones I've seen just do not seem to measure up.
Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on August 17th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
Some years ago, when I took a class on Women in Music, one of the assigned readings was from about 100 years ago, about how women were incapable of composing music. My response in class was to the effect of, "That poor man. I know that he was surrounded by the societal assumption that women were basically unintelligent and suited only for the bearing and raising of children, but did he not even notice how circular his argument was? I mean, really, 'It's impossible to teach women to compose music, because women can't compose music, and we know this because there are no women composers.' I learned to reason better than that in fifth grade."

As I recall, the teacher, who was expecting a more impassioned response, was a bit puzzled.
Joseph Abbottfaxpaladin on August 18th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
In the early novels I think Stout overdoes the rough edges to make Archie more of a nekulturniy contrast to Wolfe. But as the series progresses, Archie grows into himself as a character, and Stout stops needing to press that button so much. Also, arguably, being around Wolfe that long changes Archie (even Wolfe, returning from his undercover stint in In the Best Families, is surprised to discover that Archie has bought his own unabridged dictionary).

Edited at 2009-08-18 01:14 am (UTC)
Tim Illingworthtimill on August 18th, 2009 02:17 am (UTC)
It would be more surprising if Archie hadn't changed, really. Though Fritz' cookbook collection remains distressingly static, at least in number.
(Anonymous) on August 18th, 2009 11:44 pm (UTC)
Just a thought. Anthrax is, I belive, either inhaled or ingested. It is possable that an injection of the stuff could act much faster. Not saying it would, but is a possability.

Younger Brother