The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 12, 1986 · Page 30
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 30

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, January 12, 1986
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Page 30
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The Salina Journal Entertainment Sunday, January 12,1986 Page 4 Hart provides coherent look at Miss Marple By JOHN GROSS The New York Times THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MISS JANE MARPLE. By Anne Hart. 161 pages. Dodd, Mead. $13.95. MISS MARPLE: THE COMPLETE SHORT STORIES. By Agatha Christie. 346 pages. Dodd, Mead. $14.95. "A Christie for Christmas" — such was the heaven-sent slogan with which, once upon a time, Agatha Christie's publishers used to advertise her latest autumnal off er- irg. Those days, of course, have gone forever; but this year — a year that has already seen the appearance of an excellent biography of Agatha Christie herself, by Janet Morgan — insatiable addicts can at any rate console themselves by reading a biography of her second most celebrated character. On the face of it the life of Jane Marple may sound a rather desperate enterprise. In the stories Miss Marple serves her two- dimensional purpose, but she can hardly be said to haunt the reader's imagination. Yet Anne Hart's biography turns out to be surprisingly enjoyable — partly because the research is conducted with a nice light touch (and a merciful refusal to rub in the joke), partly because Miss Marple, whatever her Review limitations, undoubtedly stands closer to Agatha Christie than Hercule Poirot, and prompts a good many thoughts about what the writer was really like. In that sense, Poirot is the more obviously fabricated character of the two. Then there is the peculiar pastoral charm of St. Mary Mead, a village that manages to combine the demure comedy of a latter-day Cranford with a crime rate somewhat higher than that of Chicago in the 1920s. Hart provides a comprehensive conducted tour (complete with pictorial map), and a survey of the leading inhabitants — the peppery retired colonels living at the Larches and Simla Lodge amid their brass tables and relics of the Raj, the doctor and the lawyer, the old ladies sweetening their afternoon tea with a little scandal. Everyone is here, from the surly, burly landlord of the Blue Boar and his wayward daughter to Quinton the vet, "whose peccadilloes, if any, have gone unrecorded," from Mrs. Cray who ran the wool shop and spoilt her son, with predictable consequences ("He got in with a very queer lot"), to Miss Hartnell, whom the vicar once described as "weather-beaten and jolly and much dreaded by the poor." The vague, much put-upon vicar himself, incidentally, is one of Agatha Christie's more endearing minor characters. "One cannot help but suspect," as Mrs. Hart shrewdly observes, that his vagueness is "a defense mechanism adopted against the vagaries of his flock," and it is interesting to note that the incumbent who succeeds him in the later books is "even more absentminded." The sure sign of a sophisticated and up-to- date visitor to St. Mary Mead is that he or she starts by assuming nothing ever happens there, certainly nothing downright nasty. Miss Marple knows better, but then trouble is her business, and she tends to encounter corpses wherever she goes. No wonder she takes a dark view of humanity; even her nephew Raymond, who writes avant-garde novels full of sordid goings-on, is finally reduced to telling her (admiringly?) that she has "a mind like a sink." In combing the stories for clues to Miss Marple herself, Mrs. Hart doesn't come up with any very startling revelations, but she does provide as coherent a picture as anyone could, piecing together a hundred scattered details and supplementing the result with some intelligent guesswork. We emerge with a much clearer view of Miss Marple's domestic arrangements and physical appearance (though I'm not quite sure I know what Agatha Christie meant by saying that she had "ladylike" teeth); we are left in no doubt about her rheumatism (her "knee, as she would have put it to herself, was always with her") and her preferences as a gardener — hollyhocks, larkspurs, snapdragons. Her literary tastes turn out to be more flexible than you might suppose. She always read a few verses of Thomas 'a Kempis before going to sleep; on the other hand she was fascinated by movie magazines when her work on a case obliged her to study them. It comes as a surprise, even so, to learn that she once worked her way through the writings of Dashiell Hammett, on the recommendation of her nephew, who considered them "at the top of the tree in what is called the 'tough' style of literature." Was this ah oblique thrust at Hammett's rival Raymond Chandler, who said some very uncomplimentary things about the Christie genre of detective story? It is hard to believe she gained much by her foray into the tough-guy school, since when it was a matter of summing people up she herself was already as tough as they come. The key words Agatha Christie uses in describing her are soft ones — frail, fluffy, fleecy—but the fluff iness and fleeciness are a blind. 'Nightmare on Elm Street' makes a return visit Review By JANET MASLIN The New York Times NEW YORK — Like the geeks and goons and psychopaths that it celebrates, the horror genre seems capable of resuscitating itself over and over. Just when the form seemed exhausted, when it looked as though the last dead camp counselor lay butchered on the cabin floor, along have come a couple of better-than-average bloodbaths: "Re-Animator," a grisly mad-scientist movie with a villain who is quite literally a talking head, and now "A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2: Freddy's Revenge." The latter is as stomach-turning as might be expected, but it has a lot going for it: clever special effects, a good leading performance and a villain so chatty he practically makes this a human-interest story. With his shriveled face, rakish felt hat and 6-inch steel fingernails, Freddy (Robert Englund) suggests what Indiana Jones might look like several millennia later, but he himself exists very much in the here and now. Having wreaked more than enough damage in the first film (which was directed by Wes Craven), Freddy is now intent on subsuming Jesse (Mark Patton), a nice teen-age boy whose family has just moved into the house that was the scene of earlier crimes. Freddy is as mean and wily as they come, but he's not averse to talking with Jesse now and then, sometimes to taunt him, sometimes just to shoot the breeze. This "Nightmare on Elm Street," written by David Chaskin and directed by Jack Sholder, begins with a characteristically fast and nerve-racking scene. A school bus is driving through a sunny suburban neighborhood when the sky turns dark, the kids look worried and the bus begins to pick up speed. It tears out of the neighborhood and into a desert where the earth falls away on all sides of it, leaving the bus perilously balanced on only the thinnest stalagmite or two. The driver rises and turns to face his captives: it's Freddy, who takes an extra second to scrape his nails noisily along the roof of the school bus. Freddy is the sort to savor every nasty little detail. This sequence, it turns out, is just another of Jesse's chronic bad dreams. As the film progresses, Jesse dreams more and more often of Freddy, and even of becoming Freddy; he awakens to find himself sporting wicked-looking metal fingernails from time to time. Meanwhile, Jesse has taken up with Lisa (Kim Myers), a pretty classmate who is determined to save nun from whatever ails him. Lisa's final confrontation with Freddy is something out of the ordinary, too. Sholder makes a point of generating suspense out of innocent-looking objects, from a pet bird that turns killer (the music accompanying this is appropriately Hitch- cockian) to a roomful of inanimate sports equipment that suddenly attacks a high-school coach. Then there are the household appliances that burst into flame when they aren't plugged in, and the furnace that insists on heating a house that already has a room temperature of 97 degrees. One of the more spectacular sequences has Freddy emerging from within Jesse; this is executed with all the usual gut-spilling gore but also with the strange sight of Freddy's features suddenly outlined on Jesse's stomach. Sholder manages to make all of -this, even the more familiar touches, seem startling. Hepburn takes look at Tracy's movies LOS ANGELES (AP) - Katharine Hepburn will be the host and narrator of a retrospective of Spencer Tracy movies now being prepared for PBS. Hepburn, who starred in nine films with Tracy, will reminisce about her former co-star and talk to such stars as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Widmark, Robert Wagner, Joan Bennett and director Stanley Kramer. Tracy, who died in 1967 shortly after completing "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" with Miss Hepburn and Sidney Poitier, won two Academy Awards for acting. Best sellers N.Y. Times News Service (Last week's ratings in parentheses) FICTION 1. The Mammoth Hunters, Jean Auel (1) 2. Texas, James Mtchener (3) 3. Lake Woebegon Days, Garrison Keillor (2) 4. Contact, CarlSagan(4) 5. Secrets, Danielle Steel (5) 6. Skeleton Crew, Stephen King (6) 7. Galapagos, KurtVonnegut(7) 8. The Secrets of Harry Bright, Joseph Wambaugh(9) 9. The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler (13) 10. The Polar Express, Chris van Allsburg (8) 11. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, RobertA.Heinlein(ll) , •- ••.. 12. World's Fair, E.L.Doctorow(lO) 13. Lucky, Jackie Collins (15) 14. The Bachman Books, Stephen King 15. The Storyteller, Harold Bobbins (-) NON-FICTION 1. Yeager: An Autobiography, Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos (2) 2. lacocca: An Autobiography, Lee lacocca with William Novak (1) 3.1 Never Played the Game, Howard Cosell with Peter Bonventre (3) 4. Elvis and Me, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (6) 5. Dancing In the Light, Shirley Mac- Laine(S) 6. On the Road with Charles Kuralt, Charles Kuralt (4) 7. House, TracyKidder(7) 8. Comet, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan (14) 9. Only One Woof, James Herriot (11) 10. You Can Fool All of the People All of the Time, ArtBuchwald(S) 11. Made in America, Peter Ueberroth with Richard Levin and Amy Quinn (13) 12. Shoot Low, Boys — They're Riding' Shetland Ponies, LewisGrizzardO) 13. Ferraro: My Story, Geraldine A. Ferraro with Linda Bird Francke (-) 14. Ansel Adams, Ansel Adams with MaryAlinder(lO) 15. A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein (14) ADVICE, HOW-TO, MISC. 1. Fit for Life, Harvey Diamond and Marilyn Diamond (2) 2. The Be (Happy) Attitudes, Robert Schuller(l) 3. The Frugal Gourmet, Jeff Smith (3) 4. Webster's New World Dictionary (-) 5. Jane Brody's Good Food Book, Jane E. Brody(4) New books at the Salina Public Library Living with the Kennedys, Marcia Chellis Re-Inventing the Corporation, John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdene Common Ground, J. Anthony Lukas The Accidental Tourist, Anne Tyler Depths of Glory, Irving Stone

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