Friday, November 23, 2007

Food Coma

Ugh, my family is too bustle-y to read around. I did finish The Full Cupboard of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith, which is another installment in the slight but charming series of Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency novels, about an unlikely female detective in Botswana. I'm now about to start in on Disco for the Departed, by Colin Cotterill, another installment in the series of novels about an unlikely elderly detective in Communist Laos. I love thematic reading.

I enjoy the Precious Ramotswe books (the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency heroine). They're definitely books that I have to read between long pauses, though. When you need a rest from the world, a balm for your soul, you read a book like this, about a land full of people who treat each other with old-fashioned good manners--by minding each others' business to show they care, and ululating to express approval--and who feel that things are all wrong if they don't have time to look at the ceiling for a stretch of time every day. Sometimes you need a story in which a lot of time is spent looking at the wall, in which raising funds for the local orphanage (full of jolly young orphans raised by housemothers and their husbands) and a poorly-run local garage that is giving all mechanics a bad name are the major problems that face our mild-mannered heroine. A balm for the soul, as I said.

The Dr. Siri books, about the state coroner of Laos, just after the revolution in the 70s, are excellent in a different way. There's a tinge of magic about them, which so far has manifested itself in some old Hmong rituals, the idea that the protagonist is the reincarnation of someone important, and occasional ridiculously good luck. Mostly, though, there's a great delight in reading a book in which the hero is both vital and strong, and also so old that he doesn't really mind anything that happens to him. He lived in the jungle with the revolutionaries for about 20 years. He's in excellent standing with the party, which anyway just came to power, and is not yet suspicious or frightening in the way that we generally think of communists as being. There is really nothing that can faze him, so he just proceeds in a merry way through autopsies, investigations, shamanic rituals, state visits, and the occasional explosion. I hope the series holds up, but even if it doesn't, the first book, The Coroner's Lunch goes on my "you should read this" list.

Back home from Thanksgiving, and tomorrow's supposed to top out at 19 degrees. I should definitely be getting some reading done.

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