Monday, 19 May 2014

I'm heading into the homestretch on Triad.  The president has made his second or third trip on Air Force One.  The girl assassin has been raped and given her orders to kill the unnamed high ranking figure. The news has arrived from out of nowhere that vast new oil fields have proved out, obviating the plot.  Someone has a Big Idea (in this case called "Triad") that won't be explained until a conference on page 250.  Characters have told each other that the president almost went nuclear, but then didn't, at least eight times. Vodka and bread have been consumed.  An entire subplot -- the pilots -- has vanished.

Seems like old times.

I'm somewhere around page 175 -- I don't have the book with me at work -- and I've read twice now that Canada doesn't have nuclear weapons.  I'm betting I get read it twice more by the end of the book.

Also, I was in a used book store on Saturday, looking for Rohmers -- it could happen -- and I found a copy of Mason Hoffenberg's Until She Screams.  I've never seen one before in my life.  Brought it to the counter, where the guy said, "Oh, yeah, that just came in a box.  Do you know what it is?"  "Yes," I replied.  "Pure smut."

And it is, too.

Also, have you guys seen Godzilla?  If you haven't yet, and you do, watch how they deal with the Rohmer Conundrum, of how to tie globe-trotting military/political/cataclysmic elements together with one protagonist. Their solution, continually stop the action for scenes where the authors come up with yet another way to keep the protagonist in the story, is not better than Rohmer's.  Which, like I have to tell you, is "what's a protagonist?"

Apparently, this was also the reason it it cost millions of dollars in writers to "crack" World War Z.

The old solution: "Make your hero a reporter" worked for a century. I wonder why we don't do that anymore.  There must be some testing or something that people hate reporters.


  1. I ruin nothing by revealing that no protagonist steps forward in the homestretch. That said, I do wonder whether Rohmer thinks Hansen is that figure. After all, he appears on more pages than any other; what's more, Triad, which is his idea, gives title to the novel.

    Last week I found a hardcover edition of the Major-General's biography of E.P. Taylor in a bookstore's "FREE" box. A good sign, right?

    I'm not familiar with Until She Screams. My Olympia Press reading begins and ends with Nabokov, Donleavy and the three Canadians Maurice Girodias kept in his stable (John Glassco, Diane Bataille and Jock Carroll). I'm guessing that the Hoffman belongs with Bataille, which is the filthiest book I've ever read.

    Godzilla? I'm still trying to make up for time lost to Cloverfield.

    (Just looked it up to find that the thing is 85 minutes long. Seems much longer.)

    No reporters anymore - just morons shooting video.

    Anyone wishing to challenge the above should check out Diary of the Dead and, um, Cloverfield.

  2. I just finished Triad and I was wrong. Rohmer only tell us Canada doesn't have nuclear weapons once again. (Three times in all.) Are we all done with this one? Stan? Is it ruining things to say what I like best about the book was how the three stories -- the assassin, the pilots and the President -- didn't, in the end, connect at all. Post modern? You betcha.

  3. Yes, I finished last night. So let me get this straight: Triad is a benevolent dictatorship that will control the world for it's own good? Okay, right....

    The point of the assassin plot: so Romanov arrives 48 hours late?

    The point of Iraq dropping a nuclear bomb on Iran: so the meeting in Goose Bay can start off with this news to add urgency? And not get mentioned again?

    All three stories ended up being ludicrous - more so than usual.

    And what was the silver lining that led to all this? The discovery of oil in Russia, insuring they would become richer and therefore nicer over time.

    Oil again.

    I'm getting pretty tired of heads of state jetting around the world on secret missions that have inane deadlines that make little or no sense. It's I LOVE LUCY logic - the plots only work if you accept the premise that the worst thing that could happen would be if anyone found out what you were up to. Because, you know, the US would likely revolt if they discovered their president meeting with another world leader to discuss matters of mutual interest.

    If Mitterand can be a character (a rather petulant one), why is Thrasher not able to be Thatcher and Turcot not able to be Trudeau?

    What's next?

  4. Exactly what I've come to love/hate about Rohmer -- he seems to be imitating something he doesn't understand. He senses that a thriller should have these other elements, but he doesn't understand that they should connect. If not paying off some twist, at least speaking to fate or irony. "Wow, the Chinese were thinking three steps ahead all the time -- that's why the assassin had such an easy time getting away with it." "Phew, the Russians would have never gone through with the plan if that bomb hadn't gone off." "Oh no, he's thinking about his wife when he should be concentrating on the plan." Nope. Some shit happens and then some other shit happens. What difference did it make that Russia found all that oil? Answer, no difference at all. Time to get on the plane and fly somewhere and ask them if they support the secret idea.

    What did they always say on the A-Team? "I love it when a plan doesn't come together."

  5. You know what Russians like? Vodka. You know what you gotta do, if you're gonna drink a lot of vodka? Eat a bunch of bread.

  6. It's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - it looks like a thriller, reads like a thriller, has all the thriller elements - but something's not quite right...

    They also drink their vodka straight, like wine.

    It sure seemed important to him to get it straight just how well people could hold their liquor - Hansen, Romanov, that drunk of a Canadian pilot (Brooks? Prescott? I can't remember).

    Also - you'd think I would have learned by now - but I was expecting the assassin to kill someone and make it look like it was the Chinese or Americans, throwing a wrench into the Triad plans. But no, it was just a random act of terrorism aimed at Russia and having no impact on anyone else in the story.

  7. After Balls! and Periscope Red, I was pretty sure that the assassination plot would have no bearing on the Triad plan. And it didn't…apart from the inconsequential postponement of a meeting. Added to this, we weren't told just what Triad was all about until 95% of the book had passed and the other plot lines were over with. Yep, 95% - figured it out myself.

    Another example of the Rohmer tease, right? Like when Prime Minister Porter won't reveal in advance how he'll vote in response to the American ultimatum. The idea is that suspense and intrigue are built by holding something back. Doesn't matter what.

    Really, it's a good thing that the unveiling is left to the end, otherwise the reader would have even more time to ponder the absurdity of the plan. Am I alone in finding it anti-climactic? All that build-up for something so laughably unworkable. "I can trust you if I work with you, if I know you, if we have common goals and objectives," Hansen tells Romanov, the man who lied to him two weeks earlier. What was that lie again? Oh, right, the Soviet leader denied he was murdering thousands by sinking supertankers in the Atlantic.

    I know Hansen is supposed to be something of a genius - Petro-Canada president Bill Hooper told us as much in Balls! - but I've never been much impressed. I'm no world leader but I know enough to not propose a plan called "Yakuza" to the Japanese. So, why does Hansen stick with "Triad", even after his "China specialists" point out that it might be offensive to Chinese leaders? Was Rohmer really so sold on the title?

  8. I think you're right Brian - the great reveal of what the Triad plan was was so ridiculous that it couldn't be anything other than anti-climactic. I will state here publicly that I didn't figure it out precisely because it was so ridiculous.

    One more thing that was strange - Romanov is a good guy, we're told, but you have to watch out for Aliyev. In fact, Hansen makes a point of asking that he be left behind for the Goose Bay summit. And when he shows up unexpectedly and we're led to believe fireworks are going to happen .... he's now on board, a nice guy and all is well.

    So what is the next book???

  9. The next book? I'd like to try tacking some of the non-fiction, if only to save some of the novels for later. You guys both have Patton's Gap, right?

  10. I'm down to Patton's Gap and Retaliation. And I've sent in my passport to be renewed, so I can't even get to Canada to look for more. Let's do Patton's Gap.

  11. Good idea - it's one I have in the house so I can start it right away.

    And like Chris, that and Retaliation are all I have left. I'll have to rely on the McGill library after that or stumble into a Rohmer section in a used bookstore somehwere...

  12. Oh, man, I just realized mine is somewhere in the attic.

    But Stan, don't you also have a first edition Green North?

  13. Why yes I do - and having just opened it at random and found a passage on soil, I can see that it will be a real page-turner.

    (Note: only on this blog would I use the oxymoron "page-turner").

  14. Wait - that's not an oxymoron at all.

    I was too busy thinking of the soil portion of Green North.

  15. Should we mail around the really rare ones, like Green North? Also, Brian, did you get that cash I sent you months ago?

  16. I did indeed. Thanks, Chris. I'm betting someone is going to end up mailing his copy of Practice and Procedure Before the Ontario Highway Transport Board across the continent. The good news is that used copies of The Green North are cheap, cheap, cheap. Why, I can't say.