by Kieran Healy on April 24, 2007

Home sales are down a long ways. But why?

Sales of existing homes *plunged in March by the largest amount in nearly two decades*, reflecting *bad weather* and increasing problems in the subprime mortgage market, a real estate trade group reported today. … David Lereah, chief economist at the Realtors, attributed the big drop in part to *bad weather in February*, which *discouraged shoppers* and meant that sales that closed in March would be lower. … There was weakness in every part of the country in March. Sales fell by 10.9 percent in the Midwest. They were down 9.1 percent in the West, 8.2 percent in the Northeast and 6.2 percent in the South.

Clearly, the 9.1 percent sales drop in the West is directly attributable to the weather. Here in Arizona, it’s been a brutal mid-70s and sunny for about two months now. I can’t speak to the devastating effects of the moderate early morning shower we had last Saturday here in Tucson, though. The fact that the drop in the West was one percentage point larger than the drop in the Northeast is also obviously weather-related. The guys who get quoted in reports like this should just own up and change their job title from “Chief Economist” to “Chief Shaman for Rationalizing the Juju.”

Crime fiction

by Henry Farrell on April 24, 2007

I’ve “mentioned before”: on CT that I’m a fan of Richard Stark’s (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels, but I didn’t know that John Banville shared my admiration until I read his blurb on Stark’s most recent, Ask the Parrot

[One] of the greatest writers of the twentieth century … Richard Stark, real name Donald Westlake … His Parker books form a genre all their own

This surprised me; Banville is a wonderful writer (perhaps my favourite living novelist), but not the _kind_ of wonderful writer whom I would have thought likely to be an admirer of the Parker books. Banville’s best books ( _The Book of Evidence_; _The Untouchable_) are extended monologues delivered by shifty narrators who don’t themselves understand what’s driving them. In contrast, the Parker novels are all plot, taut and brutal. Few of the characters have complicated motivations, and when they do, it’s a problem for Parker and his colleagues, who are ruthless and clear-thinking professional criminals. Rich interior lives make for loose cannons.

I haven’t been able to track down the source of this quote using either Google or Lexis-Nexis. I have found a couple of articles where Banville describes his admiration for Stark/Westlake, including this “Sunday Telegraph article”: where he compares Stark to Beckett and Simenon. He mentions that he names the main character in his most recent novel, _Christina Falls_ by his surname alone in homage to Parker. I haven’t read this yet, but am very interested to see what Banville makes of the noir genre (maybe Donald Westlake will in turn be inspired to do a rewrite, say, of _The Sea_ a la style Starkaise).