June 20, 2006

Amicus Curiae

A quick look at my reading list in the side bar and my reading post archive will indicate how far behind I am in blogging about my reading, so I’ll try to catch up a bit.

First of all, there are some new books on my bed-side reading pile. For my birthday, my wife gave me the three follow-up books to Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization (about which I have yet to write): The Gifts of the Jews, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, and Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea. She also gave me Alton Brown’s Gear for Your Kitchen as a Father’s Day present. So I have a lot of reading to do!

Next up, Jeffrey Miller’s Murder’s Out of Tune, one in a series of mystery books about a crime-solving cat named Amicus Curiae (‘Friend of the Court’). Having the narrative centred around the cat was in interesting technique, though it seemed a bit precious at times. I’m not sure if Tigger was inspired to go around solving crimes with me either. The novel is set in Toronto, and while I at first found it fun to catch all the Toronto references, I think Miller overdid it a bit — he seemed to revel in the local detail. The plot revolved around the murder of a member of a jazz quartet obviously based on the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The fictional quartet was led by the piano player who received all the fame in spite of the fact that the alto sax player wrote their most famous number, a relationship clearly modelled on Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. I found the writing style a little distracting at times, a little too self-conscious. So all in all, I don’t know if this book is for everyone. If you like cats, if you live or have lived in Toronto (especially if you know the Toronto legal buildings), or if you’re a jazz fan, you might get a kick out of this book, but otherwise I don’t think it will change your life.

The next couple of books on the list, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and M.A.C. Farrant’s Altered Statements, were for one of the classes I was teaching this past term. I hadn’t actually read Mrs Dalloway before; as an undergrad I read To the Lighthouse and some of the Virginia Woolf selections in the Norton Anthology. And I had never heard of M.A.C. Farrant before. Though I didn’t find Mrs Dalloway personally resonant, it’s an excellent book for exemplifying early 20th century prose fiction style and stream of consciousness writing, and I certainly intend to continue to use it in survey classes. As for Farrant, she is a British Columbia-based post modernist writer. Altered Statements is a collection of short narrative pieces bordering on the surreal, sometimes funny, sometimes shocking. While it was an interesting example of post modernism, again I’m not sure that it resonated with me.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ll write more about my reading later.

Posted by Mark at June 20, 2006 04:44 PM | TrackBack
Comments

I preferred To the Lighthouse over Mrs. Dalloway. I’m curious to see what you thought of how the Irish Saved Civilisation, I enjoyed it.

Dave Brubeck and Toronto? He’s OURS! And by ours, I mean my town of Concord California. He was born here and helped found Concord Jazz records. Our local pavilion was built around the Jazz Festival (I have no idea what conglomerate its named after at the moment) and as a teenager in the 70’s I used to see programs and run errands for jazz artists. Too bad I didn’t appreciate it at the time - Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey, etc.

So now I’m going to have to read a slightly twee book about a mystery solving cat, I see.

Posted by: Carrie K at June 21, 2006 03:21 PM