Sunday 13 July 2008

A motley crew of two

Because it's still summer-, summer-, summertime
I know I said a while back I needed to take a break from Wodehouse because I'd been overloading on him a bit - I was worried I was going to stop enjoying his stuff for treating it rather too much like a rock star I was stalking and with whom I must eventually become disillusioned.

But I just couldn't resist picking this one up the other day when Toronto was experiencing yet another of this summer's fairly common homages to the sub-tropical deluge/thunder and lightning extravaganza. I honestly haven't seen this much rain and lightning since travelling through rural Cambodia in the back of a pickup truck (which was, indeed, terribly exciting).

Most of the lightning in Summer Lightning was of the metaphorical stamp but it crackled nonetheless. I think this is one of Wodehouse's best (in my extremely limited experience of him), up there with the incomparable Leave it to Psmith. Brilliant writing, charming and hilarious turns of plot, and a more energetic approach to the romance comedy conventions than the last few of his books I've read. Perfection.

I felt tremendously happy reading this book; it also gave me some good advice on how to deal with any difficult people I might have to deal with at my new editing job: "It is foreign to the editorial policy ever to meet visitors who call with horsewhips" (p. 149). Yes, I'm nerdy enough to have made this quotation into the scrolling marquee on my computer and to have printed it off in fancy cursive and taped it to one of the walls in my office.

Because I'm nothing if not persistent
I think I actually began reading Primo Levi's posthumously published short story collection A Tranquil Star before we went to PEI in June but I just finished it last night. I read the first story which didn't grab me at all and let it gather dust for awhile. Then, out of guilt, I began picking it up every once in awhile between reading fat, delicious novels.

The stories in this collection are pretty uneven in terms of quality (for example, "The Girl in the Book" is pretty good, while "Censorship in Bitinia" is mediocre at best and often irritating); none were even close to being sufficiently show-stoppingly amazing to make me sit up straight and fan myself vigorously.

Indeed, most of these stories walked the fine line between experimental and gimmicky and strayed far too often onto the wrong side of said line. I sadly felt that if Levi hadn't established himself later in his career with things like Survival in Auschwitz and The Periodic Table these stories would have gone the way of the minor characters he cleverly (but not brilliantly) discusses in "In the Park" - i.e., oblivion.

Because I can't stop fiddling with my blog layout
On a note unrelated to either of these books, check out the new pic behind my blog title and description - it's a snapshot of one of my many, many bookshelves.

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