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A Tragedy Recreated: Reading “Clap When You Land”

As I was reading the last few chapters of “Clap When You Land” news broke of a horrible plane crash in Pakistan that I can’t help but find similar to the crash that acts as a catalyst in Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel.

The crash that inspired Acevedo was Flight 587, which due to pilot error and mechanical failure, crashed in the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens shortly after take off.

The flight was en route to the capital of the Dominican Republic, and as Acevedo writes in her author’s notes at the end of the novel, ninety percent of the passengers were of Dominican descent, many of whom were returning home. She shares her personal experience as a young girl as the New York Dominican community was shattered.

Twenty years later, Acevedo was able to use that tragedy and the stories from her community that came out of the event to craft a poetic novel of family, of resilience and the strength that can be found when one is able to meet their history head on, even if in grief or anger or betrayal, and make it their own.

Now, in a city on the other side of the world, another plane destined for another capital city has crashed into a heavily populated area. Mechanical failure is again seemingly to blame, with reports of malfunctioning landing gear preventing a safe landing at the nearby airport.

But that certainly won’t comfort the families of the 99 people on board or the dozens believed to have been killed on the ground. Families who, like Acevedo’s main characters, will oscillate between denial and hope and heartbreaking grief in the weeks ahead.

One further tragedy of Flight 587 is how it was overshadowed by 9/11 as it occurred two months and one day after that event. When the cause of the crash was ruled pilot error and not terrorism the story seemed to be abandoned by the media and many of us not affected by it probably have little or no memory of it even happening.

I would hope that our memory of Flight PK8303, overshadowed this time by a global pandemic, is not so short as it was in 2001. But as Acevedo proves by so powerfully and poetically capturing the dynamic and turbulent grieving process of her characters, and her own memories and experiences two decades ago, there will always be those who remember, who transform their memory and heartbreak into something tangible and shareable, and in doing so welcome those of us not touched directly by tragedy into their community.

A Crime Filled Reading List Tangent—Mainlining Richard Stark’s ‘Parker’ Series

So, one thing led to another and I may have read four Parker books instead of just the one I planned on for May.

Now, in my defense, some of the other books I wanted to read had wait-lists with the library… and also, they’re all around only 200 pages, so they’re quick reads.

And they’re everything I thought they’d be—the only surprising thing is how unintentionally funny Parker is; throughout all the books Parker is constantly interacting with people who want to be around him, want to work with him, want his attention, want to hire him—and he just wants to be left alone. He wants to plan his job, do the job, not get double crossed, and then go off alone to live off his take. And that never happens.

I had only ever read the first couple volumes of Darwyn Cook’s incredible graphic novel adaptations, and seen the film versions of “The Hunter”, ‘Point Blank’ with Lee Marvin, and ‘Payback’ with Mel Gibson (which Point Blank’s director once remarked read like a script him that Lee Marvin had thrown out of his window in fury at its awfulness, and that a young Mel Gibson must have been passing by, and picked it up.)

After enjoying all these adaptations I’ve been loving actually getting to dig into the originals.

Reading Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man”

I recently finished Dashiell Hammett’s “The Thin Man”… but really didn’t love it. When I saw this one available through the library on my Libby app, I was excited for some classic detective noir, but that wasn’t what this ended up being. It’s been a while since I’ve read Hammett, and maybe my enjoyment of his “Maltese Falcon” is clouded by my love of the movie.

It may have been just a case of high expectations, but generally think I know what I’m getting into when it comes to classic detective fiction or a typical hard boiled story.

Still, I expected more out of Nora, since I knew a little about the eventual Nick & Nora movie franchise that started from this novel. I went into it thinking she’d be more of an equal player, moving Nick along by investigating herself, but she was barely more than decoration and someone for Nick to talk at.

But I’m also disappointed with the plot; it feels overly complicated—red herrings are necessary but everyone is someone else and everyone who’s working together is really working together with someone else. After a while the tangled web became unnecessarily convoluted.

Maybe it’s a product of its time as far as writing male and female characters, and maybe it’s an attempt by Dashiell Hammett at writing something a little lighter instead of hard boiled crime fiction that didn’t translate so well for me.

All that said, while it may have been a disappointing departure from what I expected from the author and genre, I’ll still read more Hammett.

Maybe I’ll like the movies better…

Follow me on Goodreads to see what else I’m reading…

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