Thursday, August 31, 2017

Penelope Fitzgerald's Human Voices

If you were starting Penelope Fitzgerald, Human Voices would not be the place to start.

What are the things we look for when we read Penelope Fitzgerald? She writes very well about witty and precocious children. She's good on romance, particularly, say, between a somewhat clueless male with a mission and a more pragmatic female, though one still confused. She's impressionistic, both sad and funny, and is able to wear a lot of learning quite lightly.

Human Voices has that romance, but sadly not the children. Offshore has the children. The Gate of Angels has the romance. Maybe only The Blue Flower has both.

The events take place in Broadcasting House in 1940, then and now the headquarters of the BBC. Fitzgerald herself worked there during World War II. France has just fallen at the beginning of the novel; the Blitz has started; a Nazi invasion of England seemed a real possibility.

The two male leads are Sam Brooks, the Recorded Programs Director, and Jeff Haggard, the Director of Programme Planning. Sam is the unworldly, clueless one with a mission: to improve sound recording vans during wartime; Jeff Haggard is altogether too worldly. Sam Brooks maintains a Seraglio of assistants, though it's not exactly a seraglio, since he wouldn't think of sleeping with any of them (though every one in the office assumes he does). But then one of them, Annie, decides he should be sleeping with her. Sam will need to be enlightened on this point.

So, other than a lack of clever children, what's wrong with this one? (That's how I'd approach a description of a Fitzgerald novel: it will be easier to say what's wrong.) Well, the humor takes a while to get started. In fact the opening is a bit slow and confusing. I think Fitzgerald is trying to convey the mania at the BBC for initials, but she refers to Brooks frequently as the RPD and Haggard as the DPP and various other characters by initials as well; it's hard to get involved with ABC or XYZ as such. Annie, the romantic object comes in late; Vi, one of the better characters, disappears half way through. This is wartime, I suppose, so it's justified.

But there is humor, there is tragedy, lightly handled, there is romance. A baby gets delivered in Broadcasting House. Sam Brooks gets enlightened. It has the needed elements, even if it takes a while to get to them.

So, read Penelope Fitzgerald. But start with Offshore or The Gate of Angels or, above all, The Blue Flower. Then maybe a couple of others. But then do read this one, too.

My Reader's Block Mount TBR Challenge.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Graham Greene's A Gun For Sale

Graham Greene's A Gun For Sale first came out in England in 1936. It was called This Gun For Hire when it came out that same year in the U.S., and that was the title used for the Alan Ladd/Victoria Lake noir film of 1942.

The first scene takes place in a nameless European country. James Raven, a young man with a harelip, goes to assassinate a minister of the unnamed country, the Minister of War as it happens. But before we're told he's the Minister of War, we're told that he's a socialist, that he's an old man who lives modestly, that he's considerate with his employees, that he's 'said to love humanity.'

All the more to establish Raven as a villain and a monster. The first lines of the book are: "Murder didn't mean much to Raven. It was just a job." After he shoots the minister, he exceeds his brief and shoots the secretary, an older woman who pleads for her life in a language he doesn't understand.

So. He's a villain. Get it?

Naturally things have to be complicated a bit. Raven returns to England where he's paid off by a fat man who loves sweets. But the notes are marked; and Raven, who has little money otherwise, after spending the first realizes he can spend no more of them. From the moment he spends the first one, he's a hunted man. He's naturally pissed about this, and vows revenge on the fat man, and, as he comes to learn, the power behind the fat man, a rich financier.

Raven spends the rest of the novel avoiding the police, and determining and then tracking down his employer. He also comes to understand the point behind the seemingly pointless crime he committed. There's a girl. She begins to see Raven as a more rounded figure just as we do.

The plot is well-done, tautly paced, and makes good use of the international situation in 1936. The movie, which comes out after the war is started, not long after Pearl Harbor, feels forced to update the plot, but it's not improved: the subtlety is lost in comparison to the novel.

Greene calls this one one of his 'entertainments,' implying he thought it one of his lesser efforts, but mostly it doesn't show it, and Greene later decided he was unhappy with the division of his fictional works into entertainments and novels. Raven can easily run with such existentialist killers as Meursault of Camus's The Stranger or Pinkie of Greene's own Brighton Rock.

However, that it's ostensibly a lesser work is not an adequate excuse for the fact that Greene makes that evil rich financier a Jew. Even in 1936. My politics are such that I don't mind rich financiers as evil villains, but not like this. Maybe Albanian Catholic is the answer.

The cover actually suggests the cover artist read the book: that must be Raven on the front, with a handkerchief to cover his harelip, and the building in the back looks like a commercial property, perhaps Midland Steel, where the finale takes place.

Golden Age. Building. My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

S. S. Van Dine's The Gracie Allen Murder Case

Ah, Philo Vance.

'The most asinine character in detective fiction.' - Raymond Chandler.

'Philo Vance/needs a kick in the pance.' - Ogden Nash.

With recommendations like that...

A kick in the pants may indeed be called for. Here's an example of typical Vance-speak from early in this novel: "No, I did not find myself actually longin' for the spell of an Ogygian isle with citron scent and cedar-sawn--" Van Dine explained Vance's improbable drawl in the first of the novels as a remnant of an Oxford education. Not very convincingly.

What could be considered even worse is that almost all the repeating characters talk in a style too highfaluting (or, should it be highfalutin'?) for normal human beings. John F.-X. Markham, the District Attorney who features in almost all the novels, responds to Vance's statement: "I see that the clear-toned Sirens of the flowered fields have snared you...If [Sergeant] Heath's ominous dream is fulfilled we'll later be steering a stormy course between Scylla and Charybdis."

If the allusions themselves don't cause me to throw down the book in appalled disgust, you can chalk it up to my spending formative years reading the Odyssey...

And there's not much relief from the highfaluting. Sergeant Heath talks in a working class dialect that's equally hokum, and the narrator/character S. S. Van Dine (referred to in the novel as 'Van') writes in an overwrought style as well.

So, you ask, what the heck?

Well, The Gracie Allen Murder Case (1938) is the next to last of S. S. Van Dine's Philo Vance murder mysteries, so I must admit to a certain amount of compulsive completism here. And the general poop is that the later ones aren't as good as the earlier ones, and my experience is the general poop is generally right.

But back in the day, they were enormously popular. Almost all the books were made into movies. Willard Huntington Wright (the actual person for whom S. S. Van Dine is a pseudonym) could write a novel with his friend Gracie Allen in the title and get her and her husband George Burns to play the roles he wrote for them. The fact that such noted figures Raymond Chandler and Ogden Nash needed to comment is further evidence.

More interestingly for mystery readers, the Ellery Queen novels start out as an attempt to write a Philo Vance-like mystery, and clearly Dannay and Lee were influenced by Van Dine. Much too much so, you will probably say, in their first couple of novels. (When was the last time you read The Roman Hat Mystery?) But the Van Dine novels were also remarkable in the excellence of the fair-play plotting. Couple that with an amusing pastiche of feckless intellectuals and you start to get something of the Ellery Queen magic, even if, you might say, it took Dannay and Lee until Cat of Many Tails to perfectly sort out that combination.

As for this one itself? I liked it better than all of that might indicate. If you're new to Van Dine, definitely start with the first three, which were written as a unit. This is a locked-room case, with the unlocking of the room being particularly un-mysterious, I'm afraid. But there are some well-done bits as to who the victim was and where the murder was committed. On the comedy front, I'm afraid I found all the Grace Allen/George Burns stuff not that funny. Ditzy wife jokes are (fortunately) now mostly passé, and my generation's George Burns played God rather than a grouchy husband. But I was quite amused by criminal mastermind Owen the Owl, who when he finally starts speaking, after looming ominously over half the novel, is suffering from existential despair, and starts talking like some comic cut-rate Nietzsche.

Anyway, being a completist has its rewards...

Golden Age. Cat. My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt.

Thanks to Bev at My Reader's Block and the Random Number Generator for making this appear in my mailbox earlier this year.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Simon Brett's Murder In The Title

Murder In The Title (1983) is the ninth of Simon Brett's Charles Paris mysteries. Paris is a not very successful actor, with a taste for murder investigations and repeated opportunities to get involved in them.

In this one, Paris is acting in a provincial revival of a not very good play titled The Message is Murder. He plays the dead body that falls out of a closet in the first act and that's his sole contribution. The play itself is a country house murder, and there will be a couple of other murders in the play. The lines of the play are amusingly bad, and the acting is, too

The first victim is, almost, Charles Paris himself. He's waiting in his closet, about to fall out of it, dead, when a sword comes stabbing into the closet. He's only saved from being pierced and actually dead because he's falling-down drunk and had sunk to the bottom of the closet. He doesn't say anything to anyone, because nothing fatal happened, but he starts to look around.

There are tensions. The creative director of the theatre is borderline incompetent and doesn't get along with the new general manager. The playwright is an aging lecher who is chasing after all the actresses in the play to no avail. Everyone knows that the location of the theatre is in need of urban renewal, but if the theatre were once torn down, it would not be replaced.

There's a second near fatal accident on stage, and then the creative director is found dead, shot, in what initially appears to be a suicide, and what may actually be a suicide on further investigation.

I first came across Simon Brett's mysteries a while back; I thought here's a mystery series with jokes, a thing I like. At my favorite six mysteries for a dollar annual book sale, I bought a bunch, but I gradually went off them, and there have been some unread ones here for a while. The jokes, it's the jokes you see, they tend to repeat and they're a little heavy-handed.

But on the other hand the plots turn out to be pretty good, better than needed for this sort of thing. You could see where this one was going, but the twists at the end were successfully twisty, and if Paris' solution does depend on a couple of convenient coincidences, well, they're not too, too improbable. (Though why Charles Paris' London lawyer friend should have exactly the Australian theatre director Paris needed to talk to in his office at the exact moment he calls is, well, let's say it's an indication of how small the theatre world really is? Hmm?)

Though that knight's helmet is more prominent, it's not a full suit of armor, and it's yet another example of a cover that hasn't got much to do with the novel inside, so I'm going to use the semi-automatic pistol for the category Any Other Weapon. That at least was the weapon that killed the one dead person in the book.

Silver Age. Any Other Weapon (pistol). My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt.

Also for My Reader's Block Mount TBR Challenge.

Cicero's De Amicitia (On Friendship)

Oy.

I once claimed to know Latin, at least a little bit... So, OK, it's been twenty years since I dropped out of graduate school, and I've scarcely looked at anything in Latin since then, but I took a couple of Italian courses. Shouldn't that have helped?

(In fact, if anything, Italian made things worse. I already switched back and forth between ecclesiastical pronunciation and classical: should I be saying Caesar, as in salad, or Kaiser? Now our author could be any of Sissero, Kikero, and Chichero.)

But, I thought, now that I'm in (semi-)retirement, I would write some more blog posts, read books I already own, and try to recover some of my Latin and Greek. This edition of Cicero's De Amicitia was gonna satisfy all three of those categories.

Maybe I should have just stuck to mysteries.

But at one chapter (of, on average, two pages) a day, I promised myself, even twenty-eight chapters shouldn't take too long. Three months later...

The De Amicitia is Cicero's treatise on what friendship is, what it should be, and in case there was any doubt, why we want it. It's a dialogue (like Plato) but almost all the talk is by Gaius Laelius Sapiens who is both memorializing his friendship with Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio the Younger) and describing the nature of that friendship, an ideal friendship. If this conversation had actually occurred, it would be history even to Cicero; the event would be something like eighty years before Cicero wrote the dialog. But,  of course, it's entirely made up.

My Latin remains sufficiently shaky that I hardly dare say anything about the text itself. I was struck (though maybe not entirely surprised) at how much Cicero considers friendship in its public, even political, context. Would a writer today in writing about friendship talk so much about it in its relationship to politics and class? Surely it would be considered a more private relation. Though after last January 20th, politics seems much less escapable, and something one much more wants to escape.

Again, since I'm thinking too much about politics, I noticed Cicero had a lot to say about the danger of flatterers, and how they degraded themselves.

But it wasn't surprising Cicero was thinking about politics: he was, after all, a career politician, and he was to die a year or so after writing this in the political turmoil following the assassination of Julius Caesar.

And I was also curious about the politics of Gould and Whiteley. Though I Googled a little bit, I didn't go to any great lengths to discover them, but there's probably something of interest there. What I have is a Bolchazy-Carducci reprint of a school text that came out in 1941. Gould and Whiteley's previous book was the Civil War in Spain, which I assume is the relevant part of Lucan's Pharsalia, but could be considered rather a loaded title in 1941. The introduction to the Cicero struck me as rather pro-Caesar; were Gould and Whiteley left-wing? There was also this in a note to l.6 in Chapter XI:
Cicero regarded reformers like Gracchus [Tiberius] very much as staunch conservative might feel towards an extreme left wing socialist.
which sounds rather sympathetic to Gracchus to me. Of course, it's no particular stretch to portray Cicero as a pro-oligarchical conservative, but I always enjoy reading between the lines in scholarly work; I think there's quite a lot of character to gleaned half-hidden in 'objective' scholarship. If I was more scholarly than I in fact am, I'd go find out in this case. As it is, I'll just speculate.

I could also write a bit about Ladislaus Bolchazy of Bolchazy-Carducci publishers of Chicago, whom I met once in the mid 1980s, and who gave me this edition, along with several other books they published. But that would be an anecdote, I suppose, but I'm not sure I'd go so far as to call it amusing, and this post is long enough. But I did pull their edition of Plato's Apology off the shelf, edited by James J. Helm, which he gave me at the same time. Maybe that will be my next Classical project. I've read the Apology, but not this edition, so it, too, could count for my TBR list. But give me a couple of months...

De Amicitia counts for the My Reader's Block Mount TBR Challenge.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep

I could tell you the plot, but you probably already know it, and it doesn't matter much anyway: it's all on the surface. This is famously the Chandler novel where the scriptwriters for the Bogart-Bacall movie version asked who killed the chauffeur, and Chandler said he didn't know.

But if it's all on the surface, what a surface it is, like, say, Vivian Sternwood Regan's legs: "The knees were dimpled, not bony and sharp. The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem." Not a word about whether those legs have any muscle in them or even if they move.

After reading Ross MacDonald's The Doomsters, I thought I'd read The Big Sleep to compare. Their setups are similar: each has a rich father, dying in Chandler, already dead in Ross MacDonald; two troubled children, the younger one more troubled; ash blondes abound in both. And, of course, MacDonald read Chandler. His blurb is practically mandatory on paperback editions of Chandler:
Chandler wrote like a slumming angel and invested the sun-blinded streets of Los Angeles with a romantic presence.
Though meant as a puff, the quote also suggests what I sometimes dislike about Chandler: his tendency to romanticize. I don't always believe in the presence of Marlowe on the page, though when he's embodied by Humphrey Bogart, I do. (I've never seen the Robert Mitchum version of my paperback tie-in edition.) But Chandler (in Marlowe's voice) can playfully toy with that romanic image. Marlowe is in his apartment; Carmen, the younger doped-up and more troubled sister is there with the intent to seduce him. Marlowe has set up a chess problem on a board:
I looked down at the chessboard. The move with the knight was wrong. I put it back where I had moved it from. Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn't a game for knights.
I was half-expecting to use The Doomsters to beat up on The Big Sleep, and it's true: Ross MacDonald has written a novel of more emotional depth. But as I said if The Big Sleep is all surface, what a surface it is.

I guess that's supposed to be Sarah Miles on the cover. Maybe it's the moment when Marlowe saves Vivian from a thief outside Eddie Mars' gambling den. But Marlowe didn't have a gun then in the book and certainly it shouldn't be smoking. So maybe it's something else or it's got nothing to do with anything. (Just don't ask Chandler.) But whatever is going on, I'd say she looks like a Damsel in Distress.

Golden Age. Damsel in Distress. My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Scavenger's Hunt.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Ross MacDonald's The Doomsters

"That's when I consider my more serious work started. With The Doomsters." From an interview with Ross MacDonald in It's All One Case, p. 234.
I recently read It's All One Case, the collection of interviews conducted by Paul Nelson with Ross MacDonald. It only came out last year, though the interviews were conducted in 1976. The book is filled with pictures, of Ross MacDonald and his wife mystery writer Margaret Millar, and of what seems like must be every cover ever issued of any Ross MacDonald language in any of half-dozen languages. A wonderful book if you're a Ross MacDonald fan. It's been suggesting things for my reading list for a month or more now.

The Doomsters is the first of the MacDonald books I've reread since; I hadn't read The Doomsters in a while. It really is the beginning of the great period for MacDonald, the series of novels of the late 50s and 60s that generally center around broken families and troubled children. The Galton Case. The Zebra-Striped Hearse (my personal favorite). The Wycherly Woman.

Who knows what changes a good writer into a great one? (If I knew the formula, I'd use it myself, and then make it available to others on generous terms...) Unfortunately, one of the possible causes for MacDonald was, at the time he was writing this, stress. There was trouble with his own daughter. Linda Millar, aged 16 in 1956, had struck and killed a young boy with her car, then drove off, and an hour later, crashed in the rear of a second car. She was drunk at the time. She was confined to a state mental hospital for a period. Her trial was moved to adult court, where she was convicted, but given a sentence of probation. There were a couple of suicide attempts. All three members of the family underwent psychoanalysis. It was a notable event in what was a life of trouble for Linda. Linda Millar died, of what was probably a drug overdose, at age 31. [Details from Ton Nolan's biography of Ross MacDonald.]

Some of these events are transformed, but still recognizable in The Doomsters. It starts with Archer having a troubling dream, from which he wakes to someone knocking at his door. Carl Hallman has come to ask for help, with a recommendation to Archer from a person he won't name. Hallman has just escaped from the state mental hospital, and Archer agrees to help, but only if Hallman will agree to return to the hospital while Archer invetigates. But they don't get there: Hallman overpowers Archer, knocks him out, and takes his car. Archer carries on investigating on Carl Hallman's behalf anyway.

There's trouble in the past: Hallman's mother died, a presumed suicide after two earlier attempts. Hallman's father died more recently, in what seemed a bathtub accident. There's trouble in the present: Hallman's older brother is shot, with his mother's gun, then his sister-in-law. The family is wealthy and who gets the money is a concern. There are also doctors, well-intentioned and not; psychiatrists; mental health case workers; private nurses. As the deaths pile up and/or get reconsidered, Carl Hallman is the prime suspect, but Archer more out of intuition than for any thought-out reason thinks that presumption is wrong. That doesn't stop the corrupt local sheriff from rounding up a vigilante mob.

There's a successful final twist or two, and the plotting is good, but it's not the plotting that makes this one great; it's the troubled complexities of the family that make this one feel so much more substantial. Very highly recommended.

And it counts for the golden age mystery challenge. I'm going to go with hand holding weapon in the hands of what I assume is a groovy Seventies version of Archer on my cover.

Golden Age. Hand Holding Weapon. My Reader's Block Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Novels

Titus Groan,  the first of the Gormenghast novels, begins thus, with a description of the castle:
Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls.
Not very inviting prose, I agree. I made a list of words I was going to need to look up as I read: abactinal, clowder, anile, fuscous, spilth, marcid, scorbutic. Et cetera, et cetera. And I see now as I type my spell-checker thinks only fuscous and scorbutic are even words, but my OED was happy go give me definitions for all of them.

And yet the book shows up regularly on lists of great novels. I don't know any longer which list led me to purchase it, but I suspect it was Anthony Burgess' list of best English-language novels from 1939 to 1984 that appeared in the New York Times. And now that I've read it, I'd have to say he may be right.

There are three novels in my edition, plus a critical apparatus. It's from The Overlook Press and it came out in 1995 with two introductions, one by Burgess and one by Quentin Crisp. It seems to be out of print now. The novels center around Titus Groan, the 77th Earl of Gormenghast. In the first, Titus Groan (1946), Titus is born, and at the age of one year and a bit, he becomes the earl when his father goes mad and dies, well, is eaten by owls. It's that kind of book. In the second, Gormenghast (1950), Titus ages from seven to eighteen or so, and leaves the castle. In the third, Titus Alone (1959), he wanders the world outside Gormenghast. Peake planned at least a fourth, and there are a few pages of it, but he was unable to finish it, dying at the age of 56 from either Parkinson's or dementia.

The main psychological tension is between the traditional ritual that the earl of Gormenghast must perform and the desire for freedom, for life. But at the same time, at least in the first two volumes, there is considerable physical tension, mostly supplied by Steerpike, who starts as a kitchen boy and ends up (with a few murders along the way) as the Master of Ritual, the most important position, outside of the family, in the castle. Titus and his mother's hunting and killing of Steerpike provides the climactic finish of the second volume. You might not guess it from the quote above, but Peake writes very well about scenes of violence and suspense.

He can also be very funny. In the second volume Titus goes to school with an array of comic pedants; after the first headmaster dies a ridiculous death--he dies standing on his head as a result of a school prank gone too far--Bellgrove becomes the headmaster, mostly known for a pain in his teeth and falling asleep in class. The sister of castle's medical doctor Irma Prunesquallor decides to throw a party with the primary intention of finding a husband; she invites the entire teaching staff of the school, all male, as the only available pool of men of neither too high nor too low a class for her to choose from. Irma and Bellgrove both come to the party determined to get married, and by the end of the party, the pact is done. She knows nothing about his teeth, and he knows nothing about the hot water bottles she was using to pad out her cleavage. The marriage is, of course, no particular success.

But especially surprisingly to me, Peake is also capable of tenderness, and this ill-starred union is treated gently.

It's all very good, really, while it's good. Unfortunately Titus Alone is not up to Peake's earlier standard. The dementia that would kill him nine years later was already making itself felt in 1959. But it's also, I think, the case that the tension of the first two novels was wound up by the need to escape the rituals of Gormenghast, and once Titus does escape, the spring was slack. I don't know. But it's certainly the case that I finished the third (shorter) novel, only because the first two were so great.

Anyway, like the fine bottle of wine it is, it's been aging on my shelf for ten years. And I figured not everything I read for my TBR challenge can be 200 pages. It's two-thirds very highly recommended, but give yourself some time to get into it.

How To Write A Blog Post (R.I.P. Barry Stiefel)

My friend of 20+ years Barry Stiefel recently passed away from a heart attack. He was just fifty-five and it's a bit of a shock. We always had dinner when I was in the Bay Area, and he came up to Toronto to visit a few times. We had long, long, long phone conversations maybe eight times a year. He once said I was his best friend, and I felt bad that I couldn't really say the same in return. But, and of course it's absurd to make such enumerations, he was in the top five.

He maintained a huge complex of websites; I was rereading his blog at The Gentleman Economist, where he posted fairly regularly for a few years until he took a new job and was short of time. While he never convinced me of his libertarian/laissez-faire economic position, that didn't matter: he was always willing to engage in discussion, and was more than willing to listen to alternative views, and occasionally even be persuaded by them. He was Republican-leaning until about the Iraq war, but then that changed. The last time we talked we both were appalled and amused by the Trump administration. I would have expected him to call me to cluck the very day Anthony Scaramucci was fired.

In reading through old posts at The Gentleman Economist, I found this, a post on how to write a blog post, and I thought, as I was trying to do more with my blog, I could learn from this. Barry's blog posts were always punchy and amusing, even if I didn't always agree with his politics. But this is funny and astute and it's who Barry was. He didn't read poetry, he said, but then he quotes Robert Service's Dangerous Dan McGrew. I don't know what his website is backed by; unfortunately I suspect it will all disappear as soon as the payment expires. So I've just copied the whole thing and I'm reposting it here. But should it matter, the following is copyright Barry J. Stiefel, 2014:

How to Write a Blog Post 
Posted on March 3, 2014 by Gentleman Economist 
1.  Start with a strong declarative sentence that leaves some things unsaid:It doesn’t have to be “A bunch of the boys were whooping it up at the Malamute Saloon“, but you get the picture.
2.  Reward the curious:Include lots of facts and insider information.
3.  Reward the well-read:Subtle references to shared cultural touchstones or recent events bring your reader into the inner circle.
4.  Earn your reader’s attention, never demand it:Your readers aren’t your subordinates, children, students or constituents.  You can’t force them to read on.
Remember that with every page you’re serving, you’re competing with the Back button.
5.  Don’t waste your reader’s time:Do your homework, get your facts straight, think clearly and then write clearly.
Eliminate extra words.  It’s OK to imply things; people who get it will feel superior.
Eliminate anything that makes the reader stop and back up. If you can’t read it aloud without tripping, it’s not finished.
6.  Reward the linguistically facile:Use punchy language.  Include clever turns of phrase and the occasional double entendre.
7.  Reward the thoughtful:Have an opinion and state it clearly.  Those who agree and those who disagree will both appreciate it.
8.  Finish with a strong close:A short, simple, declarative sentence that implies an opinion is best.
9.  The real goal of writing a blog post is to whet the reader’s appetite for more:At the end, they should say “That was interesting, thought-provoking, and it didn’t waste my time”.
That’s all you need.  Get to work.

Rest well, Barry. (A strong close, I hope.)