Draft notes

First overall pick Travon Walker. 6′ 5″ and 272 pounds. Boom or bust?

We’ve just finished the first two days of the 2022 NFL draft, which was held this year in Las Vegas. It’s hard to overstate how big an event this has become. Taking place over three days, the amount of media coverage and fan interest rivals that for the Super Bowl.

Why? Because unlike the Super Bowl every team’s fan base is involved, each hoping for a transformative pick or picks. Because you can lay an infinite number of bets on the various outcomes. Because with trades allowed the whole show becomes a giant poker game. And I think mainly because anyone can pose as an expert.

Teams invest an incredible amount of resources in preparing for the draft, preparing their big boards with armies of talent scouts and crunching numbers with various sorts of analytics. All of which counts for something, but given the randomness of the results, where even in the first round of the draft your hit rate on picks runs around 50%, just how much it counts for is open to debate.

This year was a more open and unpredictable draft than ever, in large part because there were few blue chip prospects and no top quarterbacks in the mix. As it turned out, only one QB was taken in the first round (Kenny Pickett, who went 20th overall to the Pittsburgh Steelers).

The low evaluation of the QBs in this draft underlines another change that’s become more pronounced around the league. Of course it’s long been recognized that the QB is the most important player on the team. No other position is even close. What’s changed is the mindset that says that you have to have an elite or franchise QB (read: top 10 or so) to even be relevant. One or two of the best QBs in this draft might turn into decent starters, but teams want a lot more from their QB prospects now. You have to have the potential to be one of the very best. In draft terms, this means the position has become totally front-loaded.

That’s a philosophy that was underwritten this off-season as well. Not only did Deshaun Watson, despite having to deal with a bunch of sexual assault allegations, receive a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns (which also cost the Browns three first-round picks), but otherwise serviceable-to-good QBs like Jimmy Garappolo and Baker Mayfield became toxic assets. It’s not the high price of talent that kills you, as one owner put it, but the high price of mediocrity. You can pay an elite player anything, but you can’t afford to have players who are JAGs (Just-A-Guy) on your roster.

It’s hard not to see this as yet another example of our winner-take-all economy in action, which in turn makes the draft seem like even more of a lottery. Is that another reason that it’s become so popular? It’s a sporting event for our time.

Maigret: Maigret in Court

Simenon was a machine cranking out these Maigret titles, and I have to think that all the time the chief inspector spends thinking about his retirement – two years away in this book, as he’s fifty-three – reflects an authorial burn-out as well. But then Maigret was ready to retire as early as Lock No. 1, which was still early going in the series, so there’s that.

Another incompatible couple. An older man who is a bit of a loser marries a younger woman who is “petite and very curvaceous, with a come-hither look in her eye, a suggestive pout and seductive manner.” In short, she’s trouble. In these mysteries the women either love too much or not at all, and bubble-headed Ginette falls into the latter category.

This is a weaker effort, as the crime is brutal and uninteresting, the characters dull and undistinguished, and the solution just a matter of following people around.

Maigret index

Maigret: Maigret’s Secret

My hat goes off to Georges Simenon. Following Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses, a book I thought had him just going through the motions, he came up with something quite fresh and surprising in Maigret’s Secret.

At a dinner party with the Pardons, Maigret gets to reminiscing about a case that has always bothered him. A woman was stabbed to death in her home and her husband was convicted of her murder. He ended up being executed. But was he guilty?

Maigret had his doubts at the time of the investigation, but things were taken out of his hands by his old nemesis, the magistrate Coméliau, and Adrien Josset is sent off to what I assume was a date with Madame Guillotine (the official method of execution in France until the abolishment of the death penalty in 1981). Years later, Maigret’s doubts persist. Actually, Maigret’s Doubts would have been a better title here, but it had already been used. I don’t know what his “secret” is.

So this is a mystery without a solution. Or, for that matter, any way of arriving at a solution. Maigret’s method (or anti-method) of staying open-minded and allowing the case to resolve itself, takes time. But here time is the one thing he doesn’t have, as the public is impatient for Josset’s head. All we have are hints that things might have turned out differently. At one point Maigret meets a concierge who is just one of several extremely rude and antagonistic supporting players. She “looked nothing like the person he had imagined.” This is a point worth flagging, as it’s part of a theme in the book about the reliability of snap judgments. When the concierge lets him in and he goes to the apartment of Josset’s lover he is again put off.

It was all a bit of a let-down. The geraniums were there all right, but they were the only detail that corresponded to the mental image Maigret had formed of the place.

Just as with the concierge, Maigret’s mental picture is blown up. So how much else might he have been wrong, or right, about?

Once again there is something made of the fact that the married couple no longer sleep together — a point that had some weight in Maigret Sets a Trap and Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses. Is it a bad sign here too? Or immaterial? We’ll never know.

A coda suggests a possible alternative solution, but it comes by way of an unreliable narrator and is unverifiable anyway. This is deeply subversive. Closure, however ironic, is one of the essential elements of the mystery genre. But here we’re left to entertain different Jossets, a man who is either very wicked and clever or very hapless and naïve. Some lives, like that of Josset or the parallel case of Pardon’s patient, just come to a frustrating and messy end. They have their own narrative logic, and we have to take them or leave them as they are.

Maigret index

Dune on (and not on) film

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been looking at the adaptations made (and not made) of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune: David Lynch’s 1984 version, a documentary on the Dune movie Alejandro Jodorowsky didn’t make, and Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 blockbuster.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the book(s), but that may be because I’m not much into that blend of SF and Fantasy. Denis Villeneuve’s movie was widely praised though, and if you loved the novel then I think you’d be happy. This Timothée Chalamet fellow, however, is not winning me over.

Double trouble

Reading an account of the adventures of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, popularly known as El Cid, I came across a delightful bit of history.

In the eleventh century the Iberian peninsula was a crazy free-for-all and among the players were the counts of Barcelona. At one point there were two counts who were joint rulers and also twins: Ramon Berenguer and Berenguer Ramon. These brothers were the son of Ramon Berenguer I (“the Old”). Anyway, Ramon Berenguer II (known as “the Towhead”) died in a hunting accident (oddly enough, William II of England died around the same time in similarly mysterious circumstances). Brother Berenguer Ramon II (known as “the Fratricide”) then took over. His nickname tells you something about the suspicions there were at the time over his involvement in his brother’s death.

That all this was going on between twins with reversed names just seemed like too much fun for me. As things worked out, the Fratricide Berenguer Ramon was later succeeded by his brother the Towhead’s son, who became Ramon Berenguer III (and who was also Ramon Berenguer I, Count of Provence). With these unimaginative names you can tell why they needed additional descriptive monikers. Ramon Berenguer III is known as the Great on account of his success in battle. On his death he left his Catalan possessions to his eldest son Ramon Berenguer IV and Provence to his younger son, Berenguer Ramon.

Maigret: Maigret and the Reluctant Witnesses

Another formerly rich family fallen on hard times, residing in a grand old house that is falling apart. I get the sense that Simenon didn’t care much for old money.

The decrepit house is a fit setting though, as Maigret himself is close to retirement and feeling out of step with modern life. The drink that will see him through the investigation is a hot toddy. He begins his day by thinking that Paris in the rain resembles a black-and-white silent film, and then the crime scene strikes him as being like one of the engravings that used to appear in the Sunday newspapers before photography.

The inhabitants of the house are just as archaic. There’s a housekeeper who has been serving the family for fifty years. There’s a pair of elderly parents who have entered a non-communicative twilight phase. And there is the next generation, one of whom has just been found dead. His brother and sister-in-law are the other reluctant witnesses, their characters infected by the moribund spirit of the place.

Everything was decrepit, the house’s contents as well as its occupants. The family and the house had turned in on themselves, taking on a hostile appearance.

Putting this musty air of decline into further relief is an examining magistrate just out of college. He’s one of a “new school” of magistrate and Maigret finds him “insolently youthful” but that just seems to come from the deputy chief inspector being out of sorts. I didn’t read him as being anything but respectful.

In any event, Maigret is in a sour mood and the murder itself turns out to be something a little less than it appears. This may be the first time in the series I had the sense that Maigret was only going through the motions, not utilizing any method (he has none!) but simply withdrawing into himself, physically and mentally, until some thought comes to him or some observation becomes significant and unlocks the case. This “formed part of a technique he had unconsciously built up over the years.” It works again here, but he isn’t feeling it and I wasn’t either.

Maigret index

Why does anyone still care about Tiger Woods?

Still going strong, at least in terms of ratings. (AP – Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Years ago I was assigned to review a little book about Tiger Woods. At the time Woods was the best golfer in the world and in the running for being considered the greatest of all time. His father spoke of him, without irony, as having been sent by God and as potentially being the most important human ever. Not, as the author of the book noted, “the most important golfer or the most important athlete, but the most important human.” As in, bigger than Jesus.

Woods was young and good-looking and multi-racial and seemed on his way to overturning a lot of the old stereotypes of professional golfers as wealthy white retirees while he was re-writing the record books. But that was all a long time ago. Since then Woods survived a messy divorce, the disintegration of his body (he just recently had his fifth back surgery), and a car crash that fractured his leg. His game, as you might expect, has suffered. But for his surprise victory in the 2019 Masters he hasn’t been great for nearly a decade.

None of this is very surprising. Top athletes usually only stay at the top of their sport for about a decade. Golf is a little more forgiving than professional football, but no one beats Father Time. This makes it all the more surprising to me that whenever Tiger Woods picks up a golf club he is still treated as front-page news.

This weekend was the 86th Masters Tournament and Woods got off to a good start. Which meant that he was the top story not only for sports channels but even for news programming. A writer for USA Today called the story of Woods’s “transcendent game” “much more than a sports headline.” On CNN the Breaking News followed up events in Ukraine with Tiger’s miraculous comeback.

As it turned out, Woods crashed at the Masters, quickly falling out of contention with some disastrous rounds that ranked as his worst ever at the Masters. But that seems not to have diminished him as a draw, with commentators insisting that his performance was must-see viewing.

I can understand some of this, since everyone likes a comeback story and Woods overcoming his long list of injuries is inspiring. But lots of older athletes have had to do the same. The continuing attention given to everything Woods does, so long after his becoming just another golfer, doesn’t make sense to me. Why, on broadcasts of these events, are they even still following him?

The reason this disturbs me is that professional athletics is one of the few public spectacles where you can still count on achievement and ability trumping mere celebrity. It doesn’t matter how famous you are or how much money you make from endorsements if you can’t run faster or jump higher or hit harder than the competition. For years now, however, Tiger Woods has put a lie to that. He is without question the world’s most famous golfer, but is far removed from being the best. And yet the media continue to build him up, with their coverage making him the main focus of interest.

I don’t follow golf, but I am a sports fan. And as a sports fan I feel the same sense of despair at this as when MMA fighter Conor McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather, a publicity stunt that had the second-highest pay-per-view buy rate in boxing history. If this is the future of sport — and Mayweather’s next fight was against YouTuber Logan Paul, which also did over a million buys — where achievement means nothing and we’re just paying to watch famous people perform (and not always perform well) then what’s the point? We might as well be watching Dancing with the Stars.

Maigret: Maigret’s Doubts

It’s an interesting enough idea. A married couple come to see Maigret during the dog days at Quai des Orfèvres (which happens to be mid-January). The fact that they make separate visits tells you something’s wrong. He sells toy trains and thinks his wife is planning to kill him. She sells lingerie and thinks her husband is going crazy. They may both be right. Complicating matters – a lot – is the fact that her sister is also living with them, and she’s “the sort of woman who turns men’s heads in the street.” Well, we know this isn’t going to end very happily.

Quite readable, as always, but this one didn’t speak to me. Maigret refers to some professional literature but “none of the textbooks on psychology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry [are] of any use to him.” And an arrogant psychiatrist who’s introduced in the early going is simply dropped as things go on. It seems that what all these shrinks “expressed in difficult language and complicated phrases was in the end merely human.” The human, of course, being Maigret’s favoured hunting ground, he just has to sit back and observe how the players interact with each other to understand what’s really going on.

Maigret index

A conversation on American politics

I only recently heard the sad news of the death of the visual artist Tom Moody, a frequent commenter on my blog here and at Alex on Film. I never met Tom, but we had some great discussions online and I always appreciated getting his unique point of view. We can have a real connection and attachment to people we only interact with online, something that Tom’s death brought home to me.

The last set of posts Tom put up on his blog were responses to things I had written, which he put in the form of a dialogue. Since I don’t know how much longer that material will be kept up, I thought I’d repost a bit of those conversations here with some light editing.

Alex Good (from my review of Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit): Sandel and [David] Brooks are right in seeing in the myth of meritocracy a mighty engine for the generation of mass resentment. Meritocratic hubris leads to smug self-congratulation among the fortunate and anger among the left behind. “There is reason to think,” Sandel opines, “that popular antipathy toward meritocratic elites played a part in Trump’s election, and in the surprising vote in Britain, earlier that year, to leave the European Union.” People were confused at Trump’s railing against elites when he was himself, at least by his own reporting, a billionaire. But Trump, unlike Hillary Clinton, didn’t talk about merit. He talked about winners and losers. And what Trump’s supporters recognized was that Trump was actually a giant loser: a serial bankrupt, serial divorced male, clinically obese, deeply ashamed of being bald, and acting out his various insecurities in giant rages on the most public of stages. His favourite word with which to tag anyone he hated was “loser.” This, like everything else about him, was pure projection. That loser rage, however, struck a mass chord. His anger – and he was anger incarnate – was a kind of therapy. His fear of being laughed at and humiliated was something everyone suffering from a loss of social esteem could relate to.

Tom Moody: This is an interesting take on Trump but omits his smart mouth that appealed to many Americans. Trump heckled loser Jeb about his sainted mother — who was actually a battle-ax and mediocre dynasty-builder, much kidded by Dems in the Bush years for talking about her “beautiful mind” that would not be cluttered with Iraq war details. While Jeb was waxing sentimental about her during the Republican debates Trump wisecracked that “she should be running” (as a candidate herself, annoying the clearly-not-ready-for-prime-time Jeb).

Calling Bush Jr.’s Iraq war a mistake based on lies, on the national debate stage, is something the media would expect from a Jesse Ventura or Mike Gravel or Ron Paul but here it was being voiced by a juggernaut candidate on his way to the presidency (though no one knew that yet). The US public wasn’t just thrilled to hear the Iraq truth spoken aloud because they identified with Trump as a “fellow loser,” as Alex Good suggests, but rather because it was true and no establishment debater or media figure up to then had the courage to speak it. Later, as President, Trump wanted to know what could possibly justify the U.S. presence in Syria post-ISIS. (Fighting a dirty war on behalf of some sleazy U.S. “allies”? Or was it the instantly-manufactured defense of “the Kurds! the Kurds!”? it depended on the politics of who answered.) Eventually Trump’s handlers reeled him back in and he made his laughable claim that the US was there to “protect the oil” (that is, Syrian oil in the ground coveted by other countries).

If Bush Jr were still president, the “left” would have applauded all these “outrageous” Trump statements. With the onset of Trump Derangement Syndrome in 2016 (a term borrowed from Bush Jr.), the antiwar faction immediately discounted Trump’s few sensible/courageous statements simply because he was Orange Hitler. The MAGA crowd was paying attention, though, including many families of maimed veterans, and appreciated hearing those occasional, inconsistent truth bombs from the mouth of their chosen “loser.” If you want to understand the election, understand that at least — it wasn’t all about bullying and “racism.” It was straight talk people forgotten could be spoken.

Tom Moody: One thought on why the US succeeded postwar and began failing after Reagan’s election. It was actually due in part to a system the US Republicans would say was the opposite of merit: the US Civil Service.

In order to execute the New Deal programs you needed a dedicated, mostly not corrupt caste of worker bees. These people weren’t paid super-well but had good pensions and benefits.

The US Republicans spread the propaganda meme of “lazy government workers” in order to justify dismantling and privatization of Civil Service positions, carnage that is still ongoing. As government gets noticeably less competent, this justifies further cuts.

Alex Good: Agree completely. What the Republicans stand for more than anything today is hatred of the government. The more old-school “conservatives” will describe this as “limited government” but what it really amounts to is what Sarah Kendzior refers to as stripping the state down and selling it off as spare parts/scrap. Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk is a popular take on this, but it’s really everywhere. Big Government is now so evil that it can’t even be trusted to handle things like rolling out a vaccine. Meanwhile, the rhetoric of tearing down the government has always been there (Grover Nyquist’s line about shrinking government to the point where it can be drowned in the bathtub), but it’s been taken to a new level, and new seriousness, with the program of people like Bannon, who talk explicitly and enthusiastically about destroying the state.

My own theory here is that the Republicans are basically looking at what happened to post-Soviet Russia as a model to be followed. Single-party rule, one state-owned media outlet, and control of the economy by a group of oligarchs who represent a government-business partnership. It’s not far removed from China either. It’s something that a lot of the old Cold Warriors seem to be missing. These guys aren’t the commies any longer, with a godless, evil system that’s a rival of or threat to capitalism. They have a better system of capitalism that America’s oligarchs want to emulate.

Tom Moody: Post-Soviet Russia had a lot of interference from Milton Friedman types in the US. That stopped under Putin and Russia seems to be evolving its own hybrid system. China has a better safety net than the US and actively funds its rural areas under Xi. Both countries are autocratic but seem to be run by a government as opposed to a handful of private corporations and CEOs.

I mentioned the US Civil Service in response to Michael Sandel’s statement “Over the past four decades, meritocratic elites have not governed very well. The elites who governed the United States from 1940 to 1980 were far more successful.” The 1940-1980 elites created the social programs but left them for non-elites to run. I haven’t read Sandel’s book so I don’t know if he makes that distinction.

Alex Good: The private sector in Russia and China is very much subordinate to the government. But I think that’s actually the system that the right wants in the U.S. because it’s not a communist or socialist government but one where a bunch of rich families and oligarchs own everything, whether they’re members of the (only) party or friends of people who are. Putin is reportedly the richest man in the world for being czar of what is not a wealthy country. What politician wouldn’t want a slice of that? Think of how much money can be made from dismantling the American state.

I think the endgame the Republicans, or Western elites more generally, seem to be aiming for is something very similar to these formerly communist countries: control the media, get rid of democracy and replace it with one-party rule by a class of oligarchs who control the government, and then work together with the private sector to enrich themselves.

Tom Moody: Trump and Bannon (I know we don’t agree on this) are bugbears for the real villains: the “liberals” that internalized Chicago School talking points about budget-balancing and the free market. There is almost no space between Bill Clinton and Paul Ryan on the issue of so-called entitlements. They think social spending threatens to drain the country and they don’t care at all about the cost of military spending. (There is actually a video somewhere of Clinton and Ryan having a tête-à-tête backstage at some event, where Clinton is assuring Ryan that on the “next vote” — whatever that was — they would have support for the cuts Ryan wanted.) Of course the right believes in “markets” but the Dems have actually been able to turn this ideology into policy. I would say on the “need” to cut Social Security and Medicare, Clinton, Obama, and the hated Trump are in near-complete agreement. Biden currently has an appointee inside Medicare (Elizabeth Fowler) who is working to privatize the system as much as possible.

Alex Good: I’d agree with that, but what I think the Trump phenomenon revealed to the Republicans (and elites more generally) was that they could go a step further. For example, as bad as Clinton and the neoliberal Dems were (and are) I don’t think they believe in getting rid of democracy entirely and turning the U.S. into an authoritarian state run by the Party, with all other parties being deemed illegitimate. After Trump I think the Republicans saw that this was possible and it’s what they’re working toward. As for Trump himself, I don’t think he has any political ideology at all, or goals beyond using the office to get attention, make money, and stay out of jail. But he’s been useful for pushing things along in this direction faster and further than anyone thought possible. Or at least that I thought possible.

Tom Moody: The Republicans (Trumpist and otherwise) and Democrats all benefit from the appearance of a working two-party system as cover for the orgy of looting by the oligarchs (tech, Wall Street, Pharma, etc) who back both parties. Trump’s flaw was “he gave the game away” with his flaky outspokenness (Iraq was a mistake, we’re in Syria for the oil, CNN is fake news — the latter of which is certainly true, as evident from their “Russian aggression” narratives concerning Ukraine). All those truth bombs meant Trump had to go — hence the Russiagate propaganda blitz and weak cases for impeachment.

Hitler/Trump comparisons never persuaded me — Hitler was a fanatic and control freak; Trump likes his golf and luxury. The MAGA hat rallies apparently scare people outside the US. These are conservative people who fear change and Modernity (not without reason) — there may be brownshirts at the rallies but it’s mostly about solidarity among the working class and rural population.

Alex Good: Yes, Trump is no Hitler. As one historian pointed out a couple of years back (I can’t remember his name), Trump is what the German conservatives wanted Hitler to be: a demagogue buffoon who would get people to vote for him but who would have no interest in actually governing. Instead he (Hitler) turned out to be something more dangerous. Trump, on the other hand, really is a moron just trotted out to play to the rubes, with no political platform at all. The tax cuts and stacking the judiciary were things he didn’t understand or care about, though he’d brag about them all the same. That was all Ryan and McConnell.

I agree that fear of change is a big part of his appeal, especially among older voters. I think we have a difference of opinion on Russia. As far as I can tell Trump’s only real business for the last twenty years or so has been money laundering for Russians. I actually thought he did enough to get impeached the first time, and the second time should have been a slam dunk. The Ukraine phone call really was a hundred times worse than Watergate.

Tom Moody: I don’t think Trump was trotted out — I think he trotted himself out in a wild-card year of working class rebellions. We started 2016 with the depressing news that the media had decided the election was going to be Jeb vs Hillary — two utterly mediocre dynasties — and ended 2016 with the certainty that both those fools were gone from the world stage. I found this uplifting but by that point most of nt friends were far gone into Trump Derangement Syndrome and couldn’t share my joy.

The news outside the CNN bubble is the world is realigning to a tri-polar situation after 30 years of US control. If de-dollarization continues the US will have to act less like The Hegemon bully to other countries and will have to get its own house in order. Riots, COVID, woke destruction of standards, offshoring, etc.

Alex Good: I agree with you that Trump wasn’t initially trotted out. He was seen as a party crasher. I think Republicans hated him from the start, and from all the reporting I’ve read they still do. Even the ones who kiss his ass the most.

But despite that hate they find him a useful idiot for the reasons I mentioned: he fires up the base and has no interest whatsoever in actually governing, giving the party establishment a free hand to do pretty much whatever they want. Some may grumble about trade wars and the rest, but when push comes to shove — and that was the tax cut bill — they drew a hard line in the sand. The donors were insisting on that. And after tax cuts and stacking the judiciary there really wasn’t much else on the agenda. The Republicans are a party without a platform. Building a wall, infrastructure, a big beautiful new healthcare bill . . . these were things they didn’t even attempt. It got to the point where they finally didn’t even bother publishing a platform for Trump’s second nomination. I don’t think so much because they were just deferring to “whatever Trump says” as that they didn’t have much they really wanted.

Ah, we do part ways on Russia. I am not in the NeoCon camp and think Russia had plenty of legitimate grievances with NATO expansion etc. Nor do I think Trump is a Manchurian candidate figure. I do, however, think Putin thinks of him as (again) a useful idiot to have in the White House (he publicly stated he wanted Trump to win), and I don’t think there’s any denying that Russia did intervene in the election to help Trump. I don’t know how big a part that played in the election (Clinton was probably the very worst candidate the Dems could have put forward), but it was an issue. I’m disturbed by writing off the connections that were made as a hoax or a fraud. The two sides were meeting. They were working together. They were trying to keep it secret. We don’t know how much of it they did keep secret.

Maigret: Maigret Travels

In Maigret Enjoys Himself our hero

felt a bit jealous of Janvier, not because of his success, but for a silly reason. Every time an investigation at the Police Judiciaire incurred certain costs, such as travel, they had to fight a battle with the accountants, who went through every expense claim with a fine-tooth comb.

How had Janvier managed to swing a flight to Cannes? They must be attaching a singular importance to this case, that they should have loosened the purse strings so much.

I don’t know if it was in reaction to this, but Maigret gets to score some major frequent-flier points (as well as riding in a Rolls-Royce for the first time) in this next adventure as he flies off to Nice, Monte Carlo, and Lausanne while investigating the case of a billionaire drowned in a bathtub. Being a billionaire in 1957 was, I suspect, a pretty big deal. But it’s important to get the currency right. In this instance, “If you count in francs, it’s correct. Not in pounds.” In any event, I’m not sure what the exchange was at the time, but the deceased was rich.

As things turn out, Maigret doesn’t dislike members of the elite set, but they upset him.

These people irritated him, that much was a fact. Faced with them, he was in the position of a newcomer in a club, for example, or a new pupil in a class who feels awkward and embarrassed because he doesn’t yet know the rules, the customs, the catchphrases, and assume the others are laughing at him.

Of course, putting a chip on Maigret’s shoulder isn’t a good idea if you want to get away with murder, and aside from all the flying about he handles this one pretty easily. In fact, there’s really only the one suspect. It’s not much of a mystery. The best part of the book is a lengthy psychological analysis Maigret performs on the super-rich, finding them mostly as fearful of falling out of a lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed and spoiled by. Spoiled meaning no longer capable of functioning with any kind of independence.

. . . all those who led this kind of existence – wouldn’t these people feel lost, helpless, naked somehow, as powerless, clumsy and fragile as babies, if suddenly they were plunged into everyday life?

Are “these people” still with us? Not the super-rich, they’re obviously still around, but a class that is totally dependent on a servant class to exist? For all the rhetoric adopted by today’s upper class, of being alphas and hard-nosed masters of the universe, I think most of them are probably the same. What’s more, their fear is greater than ever, as it’s an even longer way down.

Maigret index