27 January 2012

Library Limelights 1

Formerly titled "Loose Living Library"

William Boyd. Stars and Bars. London, UK: Penguin Books, 1985.
Wicked humour, laugh out loud parts; how rare is that in a book? A socially awkward, passive-type Brit expects to find his mojo upon being transferred to New York where dwell the Americans he idolizes. Instead he finds himself deep in Georgia with characters worthy of Carl Hiaasen. Must find more of Boyd—other books are Armadillo and Restless.
“A comic masterpiece” – Daily Telegraph

Robert Harris. The Ghost. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007.
Author of the brilliant Fatherland, Enigma, and Archangel. The breadth of the man’s works is admirable. This one, fiction built on a thinly disguised PM Tony Blair, is not his most riveting.
The character says, on ghost-writing celebrity ‘autobiographies’:
I was still smarting from her crack about my not being a proper writer. Perhaps I’m not. I’ve never composed poetry, it’s true. I don’t write sensitive explorations of my adolescent angst. I have no opinion on the human condition, except perhaps it’s best not examined too closely. I see myself as the literary equivalent of a skilled lathe operator, or a basket weaver; a porter, maybe: I make mildly diverting objects that people want to buy. (195)

Louise Penny. Bury Your Dead. London: Sphere, 2011.
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec ponders the mystery of Champlain’s burial site while guilt-ridden over a colleague. Sequel to The Brutal Telling. Slow going sometimes, could have used more editing and less angst. Reads almost like an intimate travelogue of la ville de Québec. Is the francophone-anglo “debate” over-played here? Some Penny gems:
On two old women struggling through the snow and ice:
 In winter the very ground seemed to reach up and grab the elderly, yanking them to earth as though hungry for them. Shattering a hip or wrist, or neck. Best to take it slow. (178)
Advice for a new cop:
Instead the wiry, self-contained man had stared at him for a few seconds and then invited him to sit and told him the four sentences that lead to wisdom. ...
I’m sorry. I was wrong. I need help. I don’t know. (213)


  1. Ghost! I saw this entry before but didn't connect it with the film The Ghostwriter that I have since watched. It's a good film, and even if it wasn't: Ewan McGregor. Unfortunately, also Roman Polanski.

  2. Didn't see the film and didn't connect it, either. Can't imagine how I missed the book when it first came out. It was very subtle in its minimalism about the head of British intelligence services in NY, i.e. Sit William who should have been nicknamed Enigma instead of Intrepid.