October 20, 2014
It’s probably a good thing I’m not a physicist. Well, given how lousy I am at math, it’s a very good thing. But what I was thinking of was the tendency for physicists to slide down intellectual rabbit-holes, increasingly in thrall to the lure of the ToE – in science-land, that refers to the holy grail, the ultimate prize, the Theory of Everything.
I have never had quite the arrogance to imagine that I could discover the Big Toe, but I do love the hunt for patterns, the sense of stumbling, almost by accident, through the gates of a larger game than I knew was being played. I’ve mentioned before that as a mystery reader, my secret trashy passion is for conspiracy thrillers, yarns in which characters discover, sometimes too late, that they have merely been disposable pawns in someone else’s chess match, and that what they have viewed as simple coincidence has, all too often, been determined and laid down long ago.
I’m thinking of this because of one name that has of late cropped up – more than once – on my radar screen: George Orwell. The folks at Amazon are no doubt painfully familiar with Mr. Orwell’s name by now: They sought to invoke it to bolster their position in their ongoing dispute with Hachette, only to learn that, in fact, Orwell was saying exactly the opposite of what they had believed.
Taking a break from the news about Amazonian doings, I have been re-reading an old Robert Goddard novel set in part during the Spanish Civil War. And whose name should jump off the page but Mr. Orwell’s: His Homage to Catalonia is referenced, in the novel, in a ransom demand.
As any lover of conspiracy theories could tell you, that much Orwell is beyond coincidence; it is clearly some sort of message, some kind of coded instruction. And who am I to disobey? It was obvious to me that I was intended to offer a discount this week on something having to do with Orwell.
Orwell’s books themselves were clearly out of the question: If we had the rights to publish them and sell them, I’d be a richer and happier woman. But we do have a book – a wonderful conspiracy thriller, as it happens – in which Mr. Orwell makes an appearance of sorts. Death of a Dormouse, by Reginald Hill, is probably one of the maestro’s lesser-known titles. It’s not part of the “Pascoe and Dalziel” series, for which he was justly famous, and its protagonist is a depressed middle-aged woman – about as far from glamorous or buzz-worthy as it’s possible for a character to get. But Hill happens to have been astonishingly good at female characters, perhaps particularly good at those who for one reason or another are not considered shag-worthy. He doesn’t pity them or condescend to them or sneer at them or put them on pedestals, but renders them with an absolutely awesome clarity. And in that clear, cold light, Trudi Adamson – the dormouse – is revealed as a true heroine. If the universe is indeed sending a message, I will be very happy to be directed to spend more time – and to encourage you to spend time – with Trudi. She’s a good reminder of the fierceness that lurks within us all, waiting for circumstance to force us to find it. And this week only, that reminder’s going cheap: 25% off on Death of a Dormouse.