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When a story is forgettable
C is for Cecilia
When I first joined the library’s waitlist for the third installment in the Alphabet Series, there were 17 people ahead of me, all of us waiting for just one copy. This is pretty amazing when you consider that C is for Corpse was published 36 years ago.
So, I was really looking forward to this one. In case you’re just joining now, make sure to read about the journey that I’m going through of reading my Granny’s favorite series.
After my last experience, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reading another Kinsey Millhone story. I’m sure I’ll write more about her character in future newsletters, but basically she is still incredibly unsympathetic. And yet, this entire 25 book series revolves around her. Maybe I’m missing something.
As I was reading C is for Corpse, I knew that I would forget most of the plot details as soon as I was done with it. It read like a police procedural with all of the loose ends neatly tied up by the last page. In fact, while I was writing this newsletter, I actually had to struggle to even remember why the title related to the story (it’s not what you think).
It’s an interesting choice to have a 25 book series with self-contained stories. What is there to make you pick up the next book? There’s no cliff hangers, no loose ends even in the personal life of our main character.
Once again, I was left wondering why my Granny kept coming back to these books. I distinctly remember her being excited when S is for Silence was published in 2005. It was like her own personal Harry Potter release.
This actually brought me back to a fond memory that I have with my Granny. For several months, she lived in my family home after she broke her hip and went through chemo for lung cancer. I have memories of her sitting in a special chair every single morning with her stack of holy cards to “say her prayers” and sitting in another chair in the living room of my childhood home watching the Today Show.
While she lived with my family, every single Friday night we would watch the show Monk. In case you’re not familiar with it, Monk was a police procedural that ran throughout the aughts and followed a quirky contracted private investigator in San Francisco who always was able to see things that the other detectives would miss.
Like the Alphabet Series, the individual episodes of Monk were entirely forgettable. But what was not forgettable was the main character, Adrian Monk. Adrian Monk allegedly suffered from OCD, using a hand wipe after every hand shake, wearing the same outfit every day, and referring to his extensive list of phobias.
Regarding his illness, he would say, “It’s a gift… and a curse” because the things that made his life so difficult were the exact same things that made him such a good detective, able to sniff out when things didn’t match up. That’s actually a beautiful testament to the theology of redemptive suffering…. but alas, I digress.
What stands out in my mind is the fact that my Granny would actually laugh out loud at this show. I enjoyed watching it and seeing the unexpected ways that Adrian Monk would discover the killer, but it was far from laugh-out-loud comedy. What did my Granny experience that I didn’t?
That question is what’s on my mind as I try to understand what my Granny saw in Kinsey Millhone that kept her coming back, picking up book after book in the Alphabet Series.
The way we consume media can tell a lot about a person. For example, I watch a lot of reality tv. My two favorites are any of The Real Housewives and Below Deck. Whenever I reference my love of reality tv, one of my co-workers mentions the fact that it’s unexpected. She says that she expects me to like documentaries (which I do!) and is always surprised when I mention the housewives.
What someone wouldn’t know simply from the surface is that when I turn on the tv, I do it with a very particular purpose in mind. If I want to learn or feel productive, I’ll read. If I want to know what’s going on in the world, I’ll go on social media. But when I turn on that tv, I am absolutely, 100% looking for an escape that requires very little brain power to understand.
If my future progeny goes on a quest to understand me by watching all of The Real Housewives, the will likely be incredibly confused. And I would even venture to say they probably won’t learn that much about me unless they continue to ask the question, “WHY did she love this so much?”
And so that’s the question I will continue to come back to as I pound my way through the Kinsey Millhone series. I think I may have touched on something in my last newsletter when I realized that my Granny might have actually looked up to Kinsey, but I don’t know if that’s it for sure.
Maybe the same thing that confuses me, the fact that the story is neatly tied up by the end of each book, is exactly where she found comfort. More on that next time.
As I was writing here, I got the notification that D is for Deadbeat is ready for me from the library. So it likely won’t be too long until you hear from me again.
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