Odds and Ends...

Murder, They Wrote

'TWO SHOTS rang out. The participle dangled for a moment, then dropped to Timeweek's newsroom floor."

Or should that be 'Dangling for a moment, the Timeweek editor watched his participle slowly sink to the floor.'?

Well, whatever.

We're not, in any event, planning to enter the Amazon.com/John Updike interactive novel competition that's stirring up the online masses. But we wish it well.

In case you're wondering what this is all about, here's the plot: Amazon.com is one of few enterprises so far making a commercial success on the Internet. It sells books online. It recently persuaded John Updike to write the opening (and eventually the closing) paragraph in what you might call a serial murder mystery. Or perhaps a lethal chain letter.

Updike and a cast of competing thousands are writing a mystery novel titled "Murder at the Magazine." Each day the online

Amazonians (don't get your hopes up, they're not 10-foot tall women) choose a winning paragraph to add to the plot launched by Updike. Winners receive a $1,000 prize. Amazon.com wins more than that amount of free publicity and lots of potential book buyers.

As an art form, "Murder at the Magazine" lies somewhere between those party-game stories that are written blind, one sentence at a time, on a much folded piece of paper, and Newsday's gimmick of many years ago, a pseudo-steamy novel written one chapter at a time by different staffers. The latter became a bestseller. So, no doubt, will the opus by Updike and the Amazons.

Someone ought to retain Updike quickly to do a sequel in which an epic poem is composed two rhyming lines a day. Call it "Couplets."

Great Scot

A CONFESSION: We were wrong last May in assuming that the then-new Tony Blair government would drag its feet on its campaign promise to devolve some governing power from London to Scotland and Wales if each region's voters so desire. It didn't delay.

Now that Birnam Wood seems likely to move to Dunsinane with unexpected speed, Scottish officials face having to come up with a home for their new legislature. Somewhere in greater Edinburgh, of course. But where? Downtown or out of town? Old building or new? A venerable parliament building suitable to the dignified architecture of Edinburgh? Or a comfortable modern structure, perhaps next to the civil service's present Scottish Office? Up to Scots, of course. But after centuries of subtly running much of Britain's government in London, Scots deserve an assembly hall with some grandeur - run, of course, with traditional Scottish thrift.

Richter Scale

SVIATOSLAV RICHTER, who passed on last week in Moscow, was a prodigy's prodigy for many decades. The Ukrainian-born pianist added the virtue of unpretentious depth of feeling to an amazing keyboard technique.

Whether he was engaged in the romantic clarion chords of Rachmaninoff, the delicate tracery of Scriabin, or the disciplined intensity of Beethoven, his huge hands seemed wedded both to the piano and to the composer's vision. A splendid role model for today's generation of keyboard virtuosi.

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