Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Good books and monastic apartments

Sarah Weinman's introductory post about David Bowker (who was guest-blogging at Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind last week) made his books sound extremely appealing, so I got hold of a couple immediately, and they were indeed a great pleasure to read. The Butcher of Glastonbury is an interesting police-procedural/horror hybrid (the main detective can travel in his astral body), a bit over the top in its final pages but on the whole very good. And The Death You Deserve is absolutely delightful if you like extreme violence, dark and insanely funny but also serious at the same time (the character of Billy is particularly well-drawn). I am very glad to have read this, can't wait to get the sequel.

My friend M. pressed Jeffery Deaver's The Twelfth Card on me a few weeks ago--I told him I don't much like Deaver's novels and he said that this one included such cringe-makingly awful representations of "Ebonics" (which I have an academic interest in) that I would be very sorry if I didn't read it and glory in its awfulness. And indeed this was right. Deaver is a good story-teller, I can quite see why he's a bestseller though he doesn't seem to have a sense of humor and his representations of forensic techniques are woefully implausible (in fact, he has a sort of genius for implausibility), but the speech of the black characters in this novel is truly outrageously and embarrassingly and offensively absurd. Read it and see. Painful in an almost enjoyable way.

At the public library I found a few things I wanted to read; first off was Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street. I wasn't going to take it out, I was on the whole underwhelmed by The Sunday Philosophy Club, but I flipped it open and came upon a conversation about my beloved North Berwick, the town outside Edinburgh where my Scottish grandparents lived, and after that I had to take it home. Quite a pleasant read, anyway; I think I like it better than the other, and the serial form (it was written in 110 daily installments) is interesting to see in action.

I've finished my chapter, which is a very good thing except that it means I have to deal with all the other stuff I've been putting off doing to get ready for my temporary move to Cambridge (Mass., not England) on Sept. 1. My apartment is in chaos, but I have bagged a huge amount of stuff for charity-shop donation--seven bags of clothes (I don't know what possessed me when I moved here five years ago to think that I would possibly want, you know, every pair of shoes I owned over six carless hard-walking years of grad school, etc. etc.). I have a monastic ideal, I realize I will always be thwarted in this because it's impossible not to have a lot of books and papers but I would really like to own nothing at all otherwise, or nothing more than I could carry myself in a couple of bags. So my subletter will most immediately benefit from this but then it will be lovely and spartan when I come home again in May. A particular favorite former professor of mine (one not known for sparing scathing words--I remember being crushed once long ago when I ran into her after my orals and babbled about how happy I was to get back to writing and talking as opposed to simply reading in a fois-gras-forcefed-goose kind of a way; she just looked at me and said something along the lines of "It seems scarcely possible for even quite intelligent young people today to speak without using 'like' in every sentence"--those weren't the exact words but it was certainly rather chilling) stopped by here for a visit recently and commented on the apartment being awfully spartan. I took it as a compliment.


  1. Amen! Books, my filing cabinet, a bowl, a spoon, a set of clothes maybe... Let's start our own commune of bibliophile spartans.

  2. Did she really say that? I can just imagine the tone. I'm sure that if she saw my place she'd say "It's very. . . eclectic." I doubt she ever will, though - I'm too scared!

  3. Lynn: Yes, a commune of bibliophile spartans! Only I will have a knife and a plate, I think I don't like cereal as much as you do...

    MM: Yes, she certainly did, and then she quoted you: "MM says you're a machine!" !!! I denied any machine-like properties, but she didn't look convinced...