Thursday, January 22, 2015

A peak into The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and Hedy's Folly

For this week's Book Beginnings on Friday, hosted by Rose City Reader here is the start of the novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley - the first Flavia de Luce Mystery (I started these and for some reason forgot about them. I need to start reading them all over now!) Just FYI, Flavia is, um, rather precocious ... 

It was as black in the closet as old blood. They had shoved me in and locked the door. I breathed heavily though my nose, fighting desperately to remain calm. I tried counting to ten on every intake of breath, and to eight as I released each one slowly into the darkness. Luckily for me, they had pulled the gag so tightly into my open mouth that my nostrils were left unobstructed, and I was able to draw in one slow lungful after another of the stale, musty air. 

And for my non-fiction choice this week, I have Hedy's Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Richard Rhodes (who was going for an epic length title on a pretty short book) ...

Invention is a strange business. Is it creative, like painting or sculpture? It's certainly original, by definition genuinely new, but it's also and fundamentally practical. Patent law says an idea must be "reduced to practice" to be patentable. That means an idea must be embodied in some new and useful mechanism or process or material. So invention is creative, but not the same way that fine arts are. Usefulness isn't fundamental to a sculpture or a painting. 

Is invention, then, scientific? Many inventions today are explicitly derived from scientific discoveries. The discovery that certain materials, stimulated in a particular way, would emit coherent light–light all of the same wavelength–led to the invention of the laser. The laser was a practical device that embodied the discovery, but wasn't the discovery itself. The distinction is clear even in prescientific times: Fire was the discovery; the fireplace was an invention. That fire hardened clay was a discovery; pottery was an invention. Again, as with fine art, usefulness isn't a requirement for scientific discovery. 

For The Friday 56 hosted at Freda's Voice here is a bit from around page 56 of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie...

Little by little, I had come under her spell. She had talked to me woman-to-woman, and I had succumbed. I felt sorry for her ... really I did. 

"His downfall?" I asked. 

"He made the great mistake of putting his trust in several wretched excuses for boyhood who had wormed themselves into his favor. They pretended great interest in his little stamp collection, and feigned an even greater interest in the collection of Dr. Kissing, the headmaster. In those days, Dr. Kissing was the world's greatest authority on the Penny Black–the world's first postage stamp–in all of it's many variations. The Kissing collection was the envy–and I say that advisedly–of all the world. 

And here is something from page 57 of Hedy's Folly (since page 56 is the last of the previous chapter and completely incoherent on its own) ...

The film Ballet mécanigue premiered in Vienna on 24 September 1924, without George Antheil's music. As late as March 1926, when the film was screened at the London Film Society, a note in the program apologized for the missing soundtrack: "Mr. George Antheil was engaged in the composition of music for this picture but, according to Mr. Léger, this music is not likely to be suitably ready for some time and a jazz accompaniment suggested by Mr. Léger will accordingly be played instead." The music was written by then–but it had grown from a film score into a major composition. "The work had really sprung from previous inspiration," Antheil explained, "derived from its three predecessors: the 'Sonata Sauvage,' the 'Airplane Sonata,' and the 'Mechanisms'–to say nothing of my microscopic sonatina, 'Death of Machines.' 

Okay - I give. There is no way that this is going to make any sense. Unless you either have a degree in film history, modern music or critical theory, this is probably just gibberish.

I mean, come on - this is about a Dadaist post-Cubist art film by the artist Fernand Léger in collaboration with filmmaker Dudley Murphy and with cinematographic input from Man Ray (of all people - just look him up in Wikipedia along with Dada - I am not even going to try). 

 The film is available on YouTube (actually lots of versions) - it's, well, experimental and unique (you might want to make sure you have the volume turned down) ...

BTW - it wasn't actually the movie that was the big deal - it was George Antheil's music - he is our connection to Hedy Lamarr.

Here is an alternative place to view the film ...
 Oh, and Man Ray ... you might recognize this famous photograph called Glass Tears ...

Glass Tears, Man Ray, 1932
  (if you decide to look up more of his artwork be warned some of it is NSFW)

I see no graceful way out of the hole that I have just dug myself (I can't wait to finish the book and try to write a review /sarcasm) so I am just going to say have a lovely weekend.


  1. I really like the Flavia de Luce mysteries, mainly because I keep forgetting Flavia is a child because of how she speaks! I love your choices in non-fiction, they never stop fascinating me! Hedy Lamarr is such an interesting person and she doesn't get enough credit for everything she has done! And although I do agree it's a bit technical and...confusing... it is definitely interesting! Thanks for sharing :) I hope you enjoy your weekend!
    My Friday Post
    Juli @ Universe in Words

  2. I would have passed right by Sweetness if it wasn't for your 56. I wouldn't want to be in the closet and wonder why she is there. And who hasn't heard of Hedy Lamarr? Thanks for sharing the wonderful post.
    sherry @ fundinmental Friday Memes

  3. Both of these titles sound like they could be interesting - I'll have to look into them. Thanks for sharing!

    Check out my 56.

  4. The opening of Sweetness definitely grabbed my attention. Why was she shoved into the closet? How will she escape?
    I wouldn't have associated Hedy Lamarr with inventions, so this book intrigues me. I'm wondering what she invented! Now I'm curious about her life.
    Thank you for introducing me to two good books.
    My Friday post features FINDING SOUTHERN COMFORT.

  5. The excerpts are interesting, thanks for sharing! :D

  6. Hedy Lamarr. There's a name I haven't heard in a while. I'd like to read about her. Both books have wonderful cover art too.
    Sweetness sounds like a good mystery and I've not heard of the series. Will definitely check it out.

    My 56 -

  7. Both the Flavia book and Heddy's Folly are on my TBR. They both look so interesting. I am a little concerned about Flavia being a bit too precocious. I think that's why I haven't read them yet.

  8. Nice beginning...I really liked The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie.

    Hedy's Folly sounds good too.

    ENJOY them both.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Book Beginnings

  9. Both sound interesting. I don''t read much non-fiction but enjoy hearing what other are reading.

  10. Alan Bradley's series is one I definitely want to read!
    Happy weekend!


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