McCall Smith, well-known for his “Ladies’ No. 1 Detective Agency” series, brings his trademark warm humor and wise wit to the interlocking stories of a small group of Londoners. The stories here center around the inhabitants of an apartment building in the Pimlico neighborhood called Corduroy Mansions. William, a widowed wine merchant, schemes to oust his lazy freeloading twenty-something son from their shared apartment so William can get on with his life, and enlists Marcia, a single female friend with romantic ambitions toward William, to help him. Dee, a young woman who works in a vitamin shop, cannot understand why her young male coworker won’t let her give him the colonic irrigation she’s convinced he desperately requires. Art history student Caroline conceives a crush on a friend and fellow student who has recently decided he might not be gay after all. Poor Jenny works as a secretary for Oedipus Snark, an MP so odious that even his own mother can’t stand him and is working on his unauthorized biography in order to expose him to the world. These stories and others collide as McCall Smith’s characters each confront their quotidian, universal yet deeply personal, problems. (Dog lovers will particularly enjoy reading about the sprightly and intelligent pooch Freddie de la Hay!)
The wait is almost over! Popular book discussion leader Judy Levin will be returning to the Highland Park Public Library this spring for a three book discussion series. Multiple copies of each title will be available for check-out prior to the discussion, so come prepared to talk!
March 13, 1 PM: "Await Your Reply" by Dan Chaon
April 10, 1PM: "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown
May 8, 1PM: "Thinking, Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman
The narrator of Donohue’s somewhat surreal novel, Jack, awakens on his bathroom floor with a cracked skull, apparently having fallen. From there, his night just gets stranger. A man who intially reminds him of his own father and later of Samuel Beckett has joined him in the bathroom and the two banter amusingly before being joined by seven women in succession. Each woman, apparently the ghost or spirit of a woman in one of Jack’s former lives, has an ax to grind with him—sometimes quite literally, as each woman initially tries to kill him before settling in to tell her story. Each woman was wounded, betrayed, or even killed by a man in their life—and Jack may well be that man. The woman’s stories are fascinating, told in a variety of styles and invoking their characters and periods vividly and effectively. When Jack is finally visited by an eighth woman, his own wife, the reason for the night’s strange events become clear.
The women’s stories are the true stand-out in this novel, with the slightly absurdist, Waiting For Godot-esque interludes in the bathroom serving almost as a distraction at times. Not for everyone, but those with a taste for the offbeat will be pleased.
Gibson, known for thoughtful science fiction exploring the ways in which technology changes human culture in impossible-to-anticipate ways, here brings his considerable talents to bear on the undiscovered country—non-fiction. Gibson’s first collection of non-fiction draws from the last several decades of his writing career, with essays and articles featuring all the usual Gibsonian subjects—the rise of the Internet; the technology and culture of Japan; Gibson’s own past in small-town Virginia and early discovery of science fiction; and all the ways, both small and large, that human culture has already been irrevocably altered by technologies as commonplace as radio and as pervasive as cyberspace. Many, if not all, of the articles, are grounded in Gibson’s own life and experiences, adding a personal touch to a topic which could otherwise seem dry. A sly wit and a lively intelligence shine through the writing, and every article, regardless of whether its predictions have been borne out by reality, is fascinating without fail.
This series of interconnected short stories explores the lives of those men and women who make sacrifices for the sake of the U.S. Army—both the soldiers in Iraq and those they leave behind. Centered around the Army base of Ft. Hood in Texas, each story explores the all-too-common issues faced by Army families—from the death of a loved one to infidelity, from loneliness to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While some increased variation in the story’s themes might be wished—perhaps the story of a husband left behind when his wife went to war?—these short stories are sure to be fascinating to both those families who have experienced this lifestyle and those who wish to better understand the sacrifices made by our armed forces everyday.