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January 25, 2016

Nancy, We Hardly Knew Ye: Nancy Drew revised

TheSecretAtShadowRanch

Generalizations are the hobgoblins of little minds, but nevertheless, I’ll make one: The vast majority of mystery readers cut their sleuthing-teeth on either Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes or the Nancy Drew series, the first volume of which – The Secret of the Old Clock – was published in 1930 (making Nancy – with her roadster and her neat bob – the very model of the Golden Age heroine). True Nancy-ites (Drew-ids?) know that, beginning in about 1959, the series was rewritten, ostensibly to get rid of racist language and bring the books “up to date.” Unfortunately, “up to date” went hand in hand with “dumbed down”; the language of the rewritten books is noticeably more simplistic and less nuanced.

Nor do the changes stop there. As Cara Nicoletti notes in her irresistible new collection of essays Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books, the Nancy of the early editions is much less compulsively perfect, and considerably more approachable. But the weirdest change has to do with Nancy’s pal Bess, who makes her debut in Book 5 of the series, The Secret at Shadow Ranch. In the rewritten edition, Bess is introduced as “slightly plump,” and this description “precedes her name in nearly every sentence for the remainder of the book,” according to Nicoletti. Furthermore, she is forever being taunted about her weight, mostly by her skinny cousin George, who has morphed from a goofy tomboy in the original version into a bona-fide Mean Girl. George is “always drawing attention to how much Bess has eaten,” says Nicoletti, “while Nancy giggles demurely in the background.” “Eating is really a very fattening hobby, dear cousin,” smirks George, smugly sipping a soft drink while Bess prepares to dive into a chocolate sundae with nuts.

But, says Nicoletti, “in the original Secret at Shadow Ranch, there is no mention of Bess’s weight.” In fact, she is described as being “noted for always doing the correct thing” and for being prettier and better dressed than George. Nicoletti’s literary analysis, throughout the essays, is clever and engaging, but she doesn’t offer any theories as to why a virulent vein of fat-shaming should have been inserted into a book that is otherwise about three teenage girls solving crimes. On the other hand, she does offer a swell-looking recipe for a double-chocolate sundae with nuts, and many readers will regard that as more than a fair trade-off.

December 18, 2015

The Best Present is Books: The Felonious Christmas Sale

books_in_bow

“The best appetizer is herring,” goes one famous Russian aphorism. Maybe yes, maybe no, but we’re quite certain of this: The best present is books. Always in style, never the wrong size, they comfort the melancholy, inspire the despairing, provide a chuckle, a diversion, a window onto another time, another place, another life, another mind.

We’re so certain that books are where it’s at (baby!) that we’ve come up with a holiday offer: Give some Felony books to a friend, and we’ll give one to you. That’s a fancy way of saying we’re running a buy-three-get-one-free offer, good through the end of the year. And of course, if you want to keep all four for yourself, we won’t tell. At the same time, though, we are kinda serious about the “give them as presents” thing. The conversation that begins with a book – “Do you think he knew? Should she have sent that letter? Why did she leave so quickly? I can’t believe he was stupid enough to marry her” – makes that book the gift that keeps on giving. So at this season of good will, we hope you’ll consider giving one.

Need help deciding? Shoot us an email, twit us a tweet, or drop us a line on Facebook: WE LOVE TO MAKE SUGGESTIONS.

(Enter coupon code HOLIDAY443 to take advantage of the Christmas sale.)

December 14, 2015

Last day of our Hanukkah special

Elephants in thye Distance, by Daniel Stashtower

Miracles come with time-limits, right? Or they wouldn’t be miracles, they’d just be the New Normal. So our Miraculous Hanukkah Sale must, sadly, come to an end. The sale-candles will continue to burn until 5pm Eastern time, after which they go POOF! blown out for another year. (To get in on all that miraculous fun, check the slider above.)

But but but, you may say, I don’t CELEBRATE Hanukkah! (You have something against crispylicious fried potatoes?) Where, O where, is the miracle for the Rest Of Us?

Patience, grasshopper. Have we ever let you down? In the meantime, have some of that mulled wine. You know, for quality-control purposes.