📖 34.0% done with Carioca Fletch (Fletch #7) by Gregory McDonaldSyndicated copies to:
📖 14.0% done with Carioca Fletch (Fletch #7) by Gregory McDonald
An interesting start with a nice dash of the cultural part of what it means to be a Brazilian to set the stage of what is to come in the book. The reader is nicely made to feel the cultural clash of American and Brazilian along with the frustration Fletch surely feels.Syndicated copies to:
I had originally meant to read all the Fletch canon in chronological order from the perspective of the stories’ timeline. Unfortunately the immediate availability of the books threw a small curve into the process, so I’ve read this slightly out of order. Doing so has thrown me as I’ve been under the assumption that Fletch was generally a journalist working for the same Los Angeles paper the entire time.
The Order I’ve read the series in so far
Fletch Won #1
Fletch and the Widow Bradley #3
Fletch, Too #2
Confess Fletch #6
Carioca Fletch #5
At the opening of this he’s going by the name of Peter Fletcher which was quirky, even knowing how much I.M. dislikes his given names, and he seemed to have a far more Italian flair and a rich man’s flâneur attitude toward life compared with his previous character. Gone was the ne’er-do-well under employed hero and in his place was a well-to-do more suave man. What was I missing/forgetting from the intervening books? It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that the Fletch character I’ve come to enjoy popped out of the woodwork as himself.
In stark contrast to the almost no plot line of Fletch, Too, which I found disappointing, this one starts off like a shot. The opening scene of the story starts out with Fletch in an apartment swap and calling the police to report a body of a dead woman in the flat which he’s staying for the next few weeks.
“This is the Police Business phone.”
“Isn’t murder police business?”
“You’re supposed to call Emergency with a murder.”
“I think the emergency is over.”
“I mean, I don’t even have a tape recorder on this phone.”
“So talk to your boss. Make a recommendation.”
The following morning he’s on the hunt for the missing art collection of an Italian nobleman who’s been kidnapped and presumed dead.
What follows is a nicely developed set of A and B plot lines that rival even those of the original Fletch. (N.B. I’ve still yet to reread the original, so it’s been over 25 years that I’m making this comparison.) The characters are great and the dialogue as witty and snarky as ever. This is Fletch as it was meant to be. Reading this after Fletch, Too brings my faith back for Mcdonald’s work.
I just hope the rest are just this good.
The added benefit is that apparently Mcdonald spun off the Frances Xavier Flynn character from this work into another series, and he’s a sufficiently complex and interesting enough character that I’m glad the Fletch odyssey isn’t really over once I’m done with these eleven.
From a time period perspective, I’ll again note, as I did for Fletch and the Widow Bradley, that this book (written in 1976) had some very progressive views about gay/homosexual lifestyle that I wouldn’t have expected.
The plot opens up just days after we left Fletch in Fletch Won as we follow Fletch and his new bride Barbara on a honeymoon neither of them anticipated taking. It took much longer than I would have liked to get into the first few chapters, and never really got moving along even when it seemed like something interesting could happen.
I really can’t believe I had the patience to make it through to the end. There was a minor twist at the bitter end which was poorly foreshadowed and a bit too predictable. There was no real mystery at all and definitely no “detective” work or journalistic probing which usually moves the plot in Fletch books along. I would almost suspect that the long-time editor of the series died and no one else could reign the writer in to produce something more compelling.
I kept wondering where the plot was going and why I should keep carrying. So far, of the 4 I’ve read in the series, this was, by far, the least gripping book in the series. The dialogue was poorly attributed, if at all, which made reading and understanding things even more of a chore. It also wasn’t as sharp or witty as usual and characters are “off” and unsympathetic. The plot was just generally flat and didn’t pay off despite what could have been an interesting twist with Fletch witnessing a murder well before I would have anticipated as the end of the first act.
I’m hoping that though it was the second in the chronological story timeline of the Fletch canon, the fact that it was one of the last written means that Mcdonald was just getting tired of the formula and trying to close out the series in some stilted way. I still have higher hopes for the others remaining on my list.
In an odd way, the title was interesting from both a character standpoint as well as it being a follow up to Fletch Won.
- 8/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
- 8/14/16: marked as currently reading
- 8/14/16: 10%
- 8/18/16: 30% “Took a bit to get into the first few chapters, but eventually gets moving along. The plot opens up just days after we left Fletch in Fletch Won.”
- 8/29/16: 64% “I keep wondering where this is going and why I should keep caring. So far this isn’t the most gripping book in the series. Dialogue isn’t as sharp as usual and characters are off. The plot is just generally flat.”
- 9/2/16: 100%
This didn’t have as much of the biting humor as others in the Fletch canon or as much interesting character development or motivation. This was a bit more more up-the-middle in terms of plot, though the twist at the end was relatively well foreshadowed yet still surprising, particularly for the time frame in which it was written.
Fletch’s romantic interest Moxie was quirky, but didn’t do very much for the plot. His quest within the story was fairly straightforward, but wasn’t very well motivated from an internal perspective given his lackadaisical viewpoint in life and his general inability to afford his situation.
The finding of the $25,000 was an interesting opening, but sadly and quickly took a back seat in the plot. Given subsequent events, it could have played a better tangential role as a more integral B-plot. The final wrap up in the closing scenes was very unsatisfying for our viewpoint of Fletch as a hero and could have had a better twist. I’m getting the feeling that Mcdonald is still coming into his own at this point in his career and that the success of the 1984 film version of Fletch had a more significant influence on subsequent character development.
Most surprising was that the major plot twist occurred in a book in 1981, making it far more prescient of American culture to come in the new millennium. Barring the differences in the current state of journalism, this plot would still easily fit into the zeitgeist today from a cultural standpoint.
Given that the series is set in Los Angeles, I was curious to see if Tom Bradley, the dead character that motivates the plot, bore any resemblance to long time Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The real Bradley had been mayor for nearly 8 years (of an eventual 20 year reign) at the time the book was written, but I couldn’t discern any direct political satire in the naming of the character, though my knowledge of early 80’s Los Angeles politics is sketchy at best.
I don’t remember the original Fletch (book) having the awesome biting, wry humor I found in this which is more reminiscent of the adapted feature film version. But it’s a hilarious little romp of entertainment. While not as tightly crafted in terms of plot as I remember the introductory book, which I read more than 25 years ago, it was terrifically enjoyable from start to finish.
The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the late 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series. This certainly didn’t disappoint, so I’ll be delving back through the rest to fill in some entertainment in the late end of the summer. Since I couldn’t get my hands on the second in the series from a publishing chronology, I thought I’d read them in the series timeline order instead. (Or as closely as I can from the perspective of obtaining them in this order.)
I read an e-book version of the text which was fair obviously an OCR’ed version of an earlier paperback version. There were a handful of egregious spelling errors and typos that should have been fixed, but fortunately the quality wasn’t too horrific. Hopefully the quality of OCR is maintained or improved throughout the remainder of the series.
For the first couple of months of freshman year, I spent my evenings breaking into buildings on campus.
Having just passed our 20th college reunion, an old friend starts spilling the beans…
Apparently the statute of limitations on college shenanigans has run out and one of my best friends has written a nice little essay about some of “our” adventures. Fortunately he has kindly left out the names of his co-conspirators, so I’ll also remain silent about who was responsible for which particular crimes. Like him, I will leave the numerous other crimes he redacted unsung.
For the first couple of months of freshman year, I spent my evenings breaking into buildings on campus. This began, naturally, because a few of us who lived in and around the Vincent-Willard dorm had mail ordered lock-picking kits, and, well, we needed something to practice on besides our own dorm rooms.
So down into the midnight bowels of Krieger we crept, sneaking deep underground into disused classrooms, mute hallways, and one strange lab whose floor was tight-knit mesh wiring with a Silence of the Lambs–esque chamber below. We touched little, took nothing (except, once, a jar of desiccant—sorry!), and were never caught.
Such was the state of fun at Johns Hopkins in the fall of 1992, an era when the administration seemed to have adopted a policy of benign neglect toward the extracurricular happiness of its undergraduate body. We had Spring Fair and the occasional bus trip to New York for the day. What more could we want?
For many—really, most—of my cutthroat classmates, this was reason to grumble. Why, they moaned from the depths of D-level, couldn’t school be more exciting? A student union, they pleaded. A bar. A café. Anything to make campus life more bearable.
But for my friends and me, the school’s DGAF attitude meant freedom: We could do whatever we wanted, on campus or off. When lock-picking grew old (quickly, I’m pleased to say), we began to roam, wandering among the half-abandoned industrial sites that lined the unreconstructed harbor, or driving (when someone happened to have a car) under the interstates that cut through and around the city. We were set loose upon Baltimore, and all we ever wanted was to go and see what there was.
Here’s what we found: A large yellow smiley face painted on the end of an oil-storage tank. The 16mm film collection at the Pratt Library. A man who claimed to have been hanging out with Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas & the Papas the night she lost her virginity. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum. How to clear the dance floor at Club Midnite by playing the 1978 song “Fish Heads” (eat them up, yum!). The big slice at Angelo’s and the $4.95 crabcake subs at Sip & Bite. Smart drugs, Neal Stephenson, and 2600 magazine at Atomic Books. The indie movie screenings at Skizz Cyzyk’s funeral home “mansion.”
None of these alone was world-changing (okay, except maybe “Fish Heads”). Put together, though, they amounted to a constant stream of stimulation, novelty, and excitement, the discoveries that make new adulthood feel fresh and occasionally profound.
All the while, I heard the no-fun grumbling from around campus and failed to understand it. We had freedom—what more could we need? The world was all around us, begging to be explored. We didn’t even have to leave campus: One spring, my girlfriend and I simply stepped off the sidewalk next to Mudd Hall into a little dell—and discovered a stand of wild scallions. We picked a ton, brought them home, and feasted on our foraged bounty. All we’d had to do was to leave the asphalt path—no red brick in those days—behind.
Matt Gross, Johns Hopkins A&S ’96, ’98 (MA), is a food and travel writer/editor who’s worked for everyone from The New York Times and Bon Appétit to The Guardian, The Village Voice, and Saveur. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Jean Liu, A&S ’96, and their two daughters.
Incidentally he also had two other meaty pieces that came out yesterday as well:
- Are we Living in a Post-Bacon World? | ExtraCrispy.com
- A New Book About Nathan’s Famous Feeds Our Need for Cheap Eats — and the Prosperity Myth | Village Voice
Congratulations to Richard Macksey on 50 years!!
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One of the most famous stories about the development of literary and critical theory in the United States has its origin at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus about half a century ago.
It was at “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man” symposium held at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library in October 1966 that a then relatively unknown French thinker named Jacques Derrida threw a wrench into a few of the central ideas supporting structuralism, a linguistic methodology for understanding and conceptualizing human culture dominant at the time and epitomized by luminaries such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and Roland Barthes. What’s often forgotten about that event is that it was in fact the inaugural conference organized by Johns Hopkins University’s Humanities Center, an academic department that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
A reader analytics company in London wants to use data on our reading habits to transform how publishers acquire, edit and market books.
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Earlier this year, I read Eugenia Cheng’s brilliant book How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics. Tonight she’s appearing (along with Daniel Craig apparently) on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I encourage everyone to watch it and read her book when they get the chance.
You can also read more about her appearance from Category Theorist John Carlos Baez here: Cakes, Custard, Categories and Colbert | The n-Category Café
My brief review of her book on GoodReads.com:
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While most of the book is material I’ve known for a long time, it’s very well structured and presented in a clean and clear manner. Though a small portion is about category theory and gives some of the “flavor” of the subject, the majority is about how abstract mathematics works in general.
I’d recommend this to anyone who wants to have a clear picture of what mathematics really is or how it should be properly thought about and practiced (hint: it’s not the pablum you memorized in high school or even in calculus or linear algebra). Many books talk about the beauty of math, while this one actually makes steps towards actually showing the reader how to appreciate that beauty.
Like many popular books about math, this one actually has very little that goes beyond the 5th grade level, but in examples that are very helpfully illuminating given their elementary nature. The extended food metaphors and recipes throughout the book fit in wonderfully with the abstract nature of math – perhaps this is why I love cooking so much myself.
I wish I’d read this book in high school to have a better picture of the forest of mathematics.
More thoughts to come…
A Japanese mathematician claims to have solved one of the most important problems in his field. The trouble is, hardly anyone can work out whether he's right.
The biggest mystery in mathematics
This article in Nature is just wonderful. Everyone will find it interesting, but those in the Algebraic Number Theory class this fall will be particularly interested in the topic – by the way, it’s not too late to join the class. After spending some time over the summer looking at Category Theory, I’m tempted to tackle Mochizuki’s proof as I’m intrigued at new methods in mathematical thinking (and explaining.)
The abc conjecture refers to numerical expressions of the type a + b = c. The statement, which comes in several slightly different versions, concerns the prime numbers that divide each of the quantities a, b and c. Every whole number, or integer, can be expressed in an essentially unique way as a product of prime numbers — those that cannot be further factored out into smaller whole numbers: for example, 15 = 3 × 5 or 84 = 2 × 2 × 3 × 7. In principle, the prime factors of a and b have no connection to those of their sum, c. But the abc conjecture links them together. It presumes, roughly, that if a lot of small primes divide a and b then only a few, large ones divide c.
Thanks to Rama for bringing this to my attention!Syndicated copies to:
Started Reading: May 25, 2013
Finished Reading: October 13, 2013
Given the technical nature of what Nate Silver does, and some of the early mentions of the book, I had higher hopes for the technical portions of the book. As usual for a popular text, I was left wanting a lot more. Again, the lack of any math left a lot to desire. I wish technical writers could get away with even a handful of equations, but wishing just won’t make it so.
The first few chapters were a bit more technical sounding, but eventually devolved into a more journalistic viewpoint of statistics, prediction, and forecasting in general within the areas of economics, political elections, weather forecasting, earthquakes, baseball, poker, chess, and terrorism. I have a feeling he lost a large part of his audience in the first few chapters by discussing the economic meltdown of 2008 first instead of baseball or poker and then getting into politics and economics.
While some of the discussion around each of these bigger topics are all intrinsically interesting and there were a few interesting tidbits I hadn’t heard or read about previously, on the whole it wasn’t really as novel as I had hoped it would be. I think it should be required reading for all politicians however, as I too often get the feeling that none of them think at this level.
There was some reasonably good philosophical discussion of Bayesian statistics versus Fisherian, but it was all too short and could have been fleshed out more significantly. I still prefer David Applebaum’s historical and philosophical discussion of probability in Probability and Information: An Integrated Approach though he surprisingly didn’t mention R.A. Fisher directly himself in his coverage.
It was interesting to run across additional mentions of power laws in the realms of earthquakes and terrorism after reading Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity: A Guided Tour (review here), but I’ll have to find some texts which describe the mathematics in full detail. There was surprisingly large amount of discussion skirting around the topics within complexity without delving into it in any substantive form.
For those with a pre-existing background in science and especially probability theory, I’d recommend skipping this and simply reading Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman’s work is referenced several times and his book seems less intuitive than some of the material Silver presents here.
This is the kind of text which should be required reading in high school civics classes. Perhaps it might motivate more students to be interested in statistics and science related pursuits as these are almost always at the root of most political and policy related questions at the end of the day.
For me, I’d personally give this three stars, but the broader public should view it with at least four stars if not five as there is some truly great stuff here. Unfortunately a lot of it is old hat or retreaded material for me.
Winchester really is a magnificent writer. Although I am a bigger fan of some of his other works, this certainly fits well into the rest of his life’s opus. Somehow he manages to cover bits of science, technology, philosophy, history, (his love) geology, archaeology, culture, politics and even uses his flair for travel writing with great ethos and pathos to tell an interesting story.
Aside from the breadth of topics he covers while telling the story of one man’s life’s work, he writes about and discusses topics which should be part of everyone’s personal cultural knowledge. As a small example, he makes mention of one of the real life archaeologists who served as a model for Indiana Jones – though sadly he only makes the direct connection in a footnote which many may not likely read.
Though I had originally picked up the book out of general curiosity (not to diminish the fact that I’m on a quest to read every word Winchester has written), I find that it also neatly fits into providing some spectacular background on the concept of “Big History” (see Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History) as it relates to China’s place in the world. In particular “Needham’s question” (briefly: Why, given China’s illustrious past, did modern science not develop there after the 1500’s?) turned around becomes a interesting illustration on the course of human history and the rises and falls of cultures and societies since the Holocene.
For those who may miss the significance, I was particularly impressed with the overall literary power imbued to the book by the use of the book-ended contrasts of Needham’s Chongqing at the opening of the work and modern day Chongqing at the close. This is one of the few times that the mechanics behind how Winchester, the master of telling often non-linear stories, has been patently obvious to me. I hope one day to unravel all of his other secrets. I can only imagine that in his heavy research of his topics, he somehow internally sees the ultimately magical ways in which he will present the information.
I will note that, in contrast to some of his past works, this one had some better physical maps and photos to go along with the text, although I was highly disappointed in their unusable presentation in the e-book version of the book. (Higher dpi versions would have gone a long way, particularly with the ability to zoom in on them in most e-readers.) For those unfortunate enough to have the e-book copy, I commend picking up a physical copy of the book for better interpretations of the photos and maps included.
Finally, perhaps for Winchester’s benefit, I’ll note that typically I would give this book a full five stars in comparing it will all others, but I’m comparing it only with Winchester’s other works and, so it stands at four, and that only because there isn’t the ability to give tenths or hundredths.
- 12/17/09 marked as: want to read; “Purchased copy from Amazon.com.”
- 12/27/09 Purchased copy from Amazon.com.
- 02/05/10 started reading
- 04/24/10 started reading again
- 04/24/2010 8.81% done or on page 31 of 316; “Simon Winchester has such a lovely writing style and grasp of language. I’m depressed that I’ve finished reading most of his works.”
- 12/03/12 started reading again from the beginning
- 12/03/2012 09.0% done
- 12/10/2012 20.0% done
- 12/17/2012 30.0% done
- 12/20/2012 40.0% done
- 12/31/12 Finished book
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
John Hay, America’s secretary of state at the turn of the twentieth century, remarked in 1899 that China was now the “storm center of the world,” and that whoever took the time and trouble to understand “this mighty empire” would have “a key to politics for the next five centuries.”
Guide to highlight colors
Yellow–general highlights and highlights which don’t fit under another category below
Orange–Vocabulary word; interesting and/or rare word
Green–Reference to read
Red–Example to work through
While some might categorize this as a “self-help” or “business” book, it’s really a broader reaching thesis which is perfect for almost any reader. It’s both a descriptive as well as prescriptive manual for the human thinking machine. Similar to his previous two excellent must-read books on civility (Choosing Civility: The Twenty-five Rules of Considerate Conduct and The Civility Solution: What to Do When People Are Rude), this is a well-written, clear, and concise text whose aim is the noble goal of improving all of our lives.
In the vein of excellent recent books like William Powell’s Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and others, Dr. Forni covers the ground of how to best deal with the current “age of distraction” in which we live. Even better, however, he makes many of these books obsolete as he uses his phenomenal depth of knowledge of everything from the Greek and Roman schools of thought to Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and then through to Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich) and Dale Carnegie (How To Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living)and beyond to provide simple and useful examples of how to be a better and clearer thinker and to elucidate how that will make your life a happier one.
Fans of “Getting Things Done” (GTD) will appreciate some of the underlying philosophy, but will love how it extends those concepts to create a truer sense of happiness in their daily lives.
When I initially approached the book–as an avowed addict of the fast-paced flow of information from both the internet and television–I was daunted at the mere ideas that the book portended. But again Dr. Forni breaks the proverbial mountain into a practical mole-hill. He divides things into simple and understandable chunks, but also provides the necessary motivation along with simple examples of how to carry out this wonderful philosophy. In the short time since I’ve read the book, I’ve been able to more easily put down my “crack-berry” smart-phone and focus more on what I’m doing and getting the best out of life.
Fans of his previous work who have “chosen civility”, will also appreciate how he ties in the concepts of civility and further extends them to the concept of thoughtfulness. The same way he broke down the concept of being civil and created simple, executable ways of changing your daily behavior, he does so with thinking while simultaneously removing the implied modern-day stigma of being a “thinking” person.
In short, this is the book that I wish I had been given before I started high school or even before I started college. I’ll desperately miss all the time I’ve had without this book, but I’ll definitely be living a better life now that it’s here. One thing is certain: everyone I care about will be getting a copy for the holidays this year!
- Started reading on 09/12/11
- Finished reading on 10/01/11