Book Talk

Darn font size issues, anyway!

The first books I have to talk about are Philip Ardagh's Eddie Dickens series, which N & I have been enjoying right out the wazoo. I have to say that my favorite is the second in the trilogy, Dreadful Acts, which starts out with the explanation in the Foreword

"[This book is] set in England sometime during the reign of Queen Victoria (who sat on the throne for more than sixty-three years, so let's hope she had a cushion) . . . "

Here's another good excerpt, one that made both N & me laugh, N at the beginning, me at the end:

"What you need is a nice hot cup of tea," said the policeman.
"Thank you," said Eddie, accepting the drink.
"What you get is a lukewarm mug of water. What do you think this is, the Fitz?" The Fitz was a newly opened restaurant in London that was so posh, even the doorman was the Earl of Uffington and the washer-upper was a much-decorated soldier - he had three layers of wallpaper under his uniform.
"How much longer are you going to keep me here?" asked Eddie.
"Have you heard of habeas corpus?" asked the peeler.
Eddie shook his head. (His own head, that is. He knew that shaking the policeman's head might annoy him.)
"Then we can keep you here as long as we like," said the peeler.

You get the picture. Sort of Douglas Adams for kids. Lots of fun, and highly gratifying to see one's child developing a good sense of humor.

Now for a highly disappointing book - no, I won't bother. I'm just going to list Neal Karlen's Shanda: The Making and Breaking of a Self-Loathing Jew on paperbackswap and get rid of it. I could not get through it: the fellow wasn't happy being Jewish, wished he could be happy being Jewish, and apparently (though I never got that far) ended up becoming a born-again Jew, but he was such an obnoxious boor through the whole process that I just quit reading. I don't enjoy reading about people who are obnoxious, period.

Well, okay, let me backtrack just a bit on that. Philip Lee Williams' Perfect Timing is about a fellow I consider rather obnoxious, in that he can't get over his obsession with himself. But the other characters in the book are so funny & endearing that I couldn't stop reading it - I had to find out what happened to them! Clarence Clayton, his cousin, is my favorite. He got religion in jail; while he's a little iffy on the details of the bible, he's quite comfortable making up anything he might not know definitively:

"The heavenly band of angels, lo, they playeth on harps. And harmonicas."
We all stared at him. I was startled by his apparent lunacy, but Mom was becoming more wrung out with each of his words. I was going to let it drop. Mom couldn't. It wasn't in her nature.
"What?" she said. "Did you say angels play on harmonicas?" Her voice rose a bit near the end of the sentence."
"The children of Israel took out they timbrels and danced. I read it. I couldn't figure what a timbrel might be, but it's got to be a harmonica because it's small enough to take out from somewhere."
"And what did they play on the harmonica?" asked Mom. Her voice was too loud.
"Country music," said Clarence.
"Country music!" yelled Mom.
"Yeah," he went on. "See, most of theseth Israelinos wasn't from the city, they was from the country, so I figure when they made music, it was country music."

Clarence isn't the only marvelous character in the book. Worth reading, for sure.

Finally, we have (in our completely mixed bag today), Haruki Murakami's After Dark. A rather unsatisfying novel, I felt, with a cover that I keep staring at (usually I don't pay this much attention to covers, but I tell you, it's got a GREAT cover!!!). Mari Asai's sister, Eri, has decided to go to sleep and not wake up. She hasn't committed suicide - she's just sleeping. She apparently wakes every so often to go to the bathroom, bathe and eat, but not when anyone sees her do it. Mari is the only one in the family who is distressed by it. The novel consists of one night in Mari's life, during which she has long conversations with a boy who knows both her and her sister (though neither of them well), and some other encounters with night people.

It's a strange and compelling novel, and I did want to read it all the way through. And I realize there was plenty going on under the surface. But at the end I felt as if I'd eaten a marshmallow - lots of air and no real substance. Lots & lots of symbolism without much heft.

I've read a lot of other things I didn't post about, but I don't remember any more, it's been such a long time!


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