Friday, August 29, 2008

A Bad Call?

Yikes! I'm really doubting myself now. I obsessed over my latest review for Library Journal. Should I be honest and risk not being published or should I pander to an author that I know has an excellent literary rep? Well, I chose honesty and may have really blown it as the book that I panned has just been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
I was gratified to see that one of the Booker bloggers agreed with me and dear Andrea reminded me that Booker Prize winners don't always circulate very well at the library.

So I'm moving on, though nothing I'm reading is exciting me this week. I've been preoccupied with a potential health issue which resolved itself - phew - and then I had my workshop to teach, which I'm told by my students, was a hit - phew. On top of that, we had the Democratic convention which had me uncharacterisically in the thrall of the television, half the time in tears, the rest of the time pumping fists and shouting out to the speakers.

Now I'm prepping for my first book discussion to be held on Sept. 11th. Falling Man by Don deLillo is a deceptively brisk read loaded with psychological angst as it manifests itself in the lives of an estranged husband and wife and their son, who is only referred to as "the kid," throughout the book. The action takes place on Sept. 11th in New York City as the towers are falling. One man walks away, dazed, confused, bloodied, carrying a briefcase he's never seen before. Though he's been separated from his wife for 18 months, his body automatically treks through the debris to her, their son and his old apartment. How each member of this quasi-family responds, directly and subconsciously, to the horror of the terrorist attack and its disruption of their lives and the city they love, is the thrust of the book. I'll keep you posted on how the talk goes.

I just finished listening to another in Donna Leon's wonderful Commisario Brunetti series, The Girl of His Dreams. Leon's novels, set in Venice, where she's lived for years as an ex-pat, are always multi-layered and are not just your average police procedural. And Brunetti, who relaxes with Plutarch's Lives or The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, is not your average cop on the street. Leon manages to inject so many moral ambiguities into her work, sharing with readers the political nuances of Venice as a city that considers itself "apart" from the rest of Italy. Actually, I would say that Venice is a major character in her books.
There are two simultaneous plots laid out in this book and readers familiar with Leon's work assume that they will eventually collide. In this case, a priest who could have ulterior motives, asks Brunetti to investigate an evangelist who may or may not be bilking people out of their money. The irony is not lost on the anti-Catholic agnostic commisario.
The novel takes a darker turn when Brunetti and his sidekick, Vianello, come upon the body of a small girl, who turns out to be a gypsy (and a reason for Leon to expound on the despair of the gypsy life in Italy) floating in the Grand Canal.

I've got another, even better mystery going on my mp3. Careless in Red, by one of my old favorites Elizabeth George, is read by the same Brit who did such a good job with the 007 knockoff, John Lee. This is also a series that's been around forever, featuring Inspector Thomas Lynley, currently on leave from Scotland Yard and deeply, unalterably mourning the death of his wife and unborn son at the hands of a street urchin, the shocking climax from George's 2006 With No One as Witness. This is a series that you'll want to begin at the beginning because George so deftly introduces her characters, following their growth and maturation as cops and as people. Secondary, quirky detective Barbara Havers adds a truly human touch to the lofty, blue-blooded Lynley who wears the mantle of mentor uncomfortably at best.
If you want to get up to speed on this series a tad more quickly, WGBH out of Boston has created an extremely adept video series that the library owns. Still, I like to create my own version of the characters before being introduced to the televised ones.

OK, enough already. I'm off for a long weekend in Savannah and a quick trip up to Maryland accompanied by a suitcase full of overdue books. I'll let you know next week how I did.

1 comment:

Infobabe said...

You didn't make a bad call. You made the only call you, as the LJ reviewer needed to. I slapped Michael Gruber a little on The Book of Air and Shadows and everyone, including our director, loved that one. If there was something that didn't work for you then you have an obligation to point it out. The Booker Prize is a Commonwealth prize decided by Commonwealth folks and you are American. You will have a different viewpoint. The judges are also not all literary professionals. The Booker Prize has an Advisory Committee to appoint the judges and the committee consists of an author, 2 publishers, an agent, bookseller, prize administrator, & chairman of the sponsoring company. Then the judges are a literary critic, an academic, a literary editor, novelist, and major figure. None of them are more qualified than you to have an opinion.