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Posts Tagged ‘mystery novels

On the other hand…

“Trim”: adding or taking away

Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, ‘Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression’ or does it mean, ‘Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default’? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of “contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean ‘give official permission or approval for (an action)’ or conversely, ‘impose a penalty on.’

Find a baker’s dozen other words that are their own opposites at Mental Floss.


As we acquiesce to ambiguity, we might send litigious birthday greetings to Scott Frederick Turow; he was born on this date in 1949.  A practicing lawyer whose first published work was a law school memoir (One L), Turow pioneered the legal thriller with his 1987 novel Presumed Innocent (as close readers of the book will know, perhaps the best title ever).  He has gone on to write eight more novels, edit two fiction collections, and publish another non-fiction work, which have together been translated into over 20 languages, sold over 25 million copies, and in many cases, been made into movies.  Turow has argued cases that have won the release of inmates serving time for crimes they did not commit, has served on Federal Judicial appointment committees, and has served as President of The Authors Guild.  If he has a fault, it is that by demonstrating the marketability of legal thrillers, he opened the way for John Grisham.

(Turow’s day job pays well enough to keep him comfortable; but in his capacity as head of The Authors Guild, he worries about the future of  American authors.  Other observers of the literary scene disagree.  In any case, as Dave Pell notes, “for better or worse, the lack of money being paid to some incredibly well-reviewed authors has led some of them to move over to writing TV scripts. This is the golden age of television for a reason.”)


Written by LW

April 12, 2013 at 1:01 am

“The map is not the territory”…

The Treachery of Images,” René Magritte, 1928-9

Alfred Korzybski reminds one (in the title-line quote, above), as does Surrealist wit like Magritte’s, that representations are not the things they represent.

Still, they fascinate us– precisely because of their power to evoke the thing that they aren’t.  And when the things that maps evoke aren’t real things at all?  Even niftier!

Consider, for example, two kinds of maps of fictional territories…

For nine years, from 1943 to 1952, Dell published 557 mystery novels with “map backs.”  Some charted fictional action on “real” terrain, for instance…

But most located the imagined plot in an imaginary setting, for example…


In a different imaginary arena (not to say “a parallel universe”), the world of comics, comic books, and graphic novels, maps also play an important role…

Sometimes they are used to elaborate on a conceit in a way that adds narrative credibility through detail, e.g…

Nick Fury’s Tunnel, Strange Tales #141

…and sometimes, simply for dramatic effect, e.g…

Superman throws out the first pitch

Today abstraction is no longer that of the map, the double, the mirror, or the concept. Simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or reality: A hypperreal. The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it. It is never the less the map that proceeds the territory – pressesion of simulacra- that engenders the territory.
– Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra & Simulation, 1994

Or, as someone who isn’t a French Post-Structuralist might say, way cool!

Readers can find more Bantam map-backs at Marble River’s Ephemera (from whence, the examples above) and at Mystery Scene.  Readers can get more graphic guidance at Comic Book Cartography (the source of those examples).  Grateful TotH to reader MH-H for the lead to CBC.

As we endeavor (but not too hard) to avoid the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1987 (44 years to the day after “Bicycle Day,” the day that  Dr. Albert Hofmann, the discoverer of LSD, deliberately took the hallucinogen for the first time) that The Simpsons debuted, as a short within The Tracey Ullman Show.

The Simpsons, as they first appeared

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