I can't help myself. I am truly trying to be a good reader and finish some of my in progress books before starting anything new, but I'm afraid I've succumbed to the temptations of two new (or new to me anyway) books. I usually like to share teasers only when I have properly started a new book and have something to say about it, but in this case the two new books are very new. As a matter of fact as soon as I finish here I am off to go begin reading them.
First up is one for my Century of Books list. Remember I mentioned that rather than trying to fill slots from the earlier part of the century I would try something different and complete one of the decades where only a few open places remain? As I am nearly finished with the 1980s and 1990s I decided to pick a book from one of the two decades. I have long wanted to read Penelope Lively's Moon Tiger, so now is the moment. It begins:
"'I'm writing a history of the world,' she says. And the hands of the nurse arrested for a moment; she looks down at this old woman, this old ill woman. 'Well, my goodness,' the nurse says. 'That's quite a thing to be doing, isn't it?' And then she becomes busy again, she heaves and tucks and smooths--'Upsy a bit, dear, that's a good girl--then we'll get you a cup of tea'."
Is it just me or do you feel like the nurse is being just a tad dismissive of the old woman. I think that happens a lot to the elderly. We forget that just because older people are old and infirm and seem so delicate and fragile that they actually had full and vigorous lives in their younger years. Imagine what they might have done. I know Claudia Hampton had a rich full life and I can't wait to read about it. She goes on in the next chapter:
"When I was about nine I asked God to eliminate my brother Gordon. Painlessly but irreversibly. At Lindisfarne, as it happens, to which we had been taken not to reflect upon the Viking raids of which probably Mother had never heard but to walk out to the island along the causeway and have a picnic thereon. And Gordon and I raced across that spit of land, and Gordon being one year older and quite a bit faster was all set to win, of course. And I gasped up this prayer, in fury and passion, meaning it--oh, quite meaning it. Never again, I said will I ask You for anything. Anything at all. Just grant this. Now. Instantly. It is interesting to note that I had to demand Gordon's extinction, not that I should be made a faster runner. And of course God did nothing of the kind and I sulked throughout a glorious windswept sea-smelling afternoon and became an agnostic."
I like this one! This is a story with potential and I begin it with high hopes (which I expect shall definitely be met).
The second book is one I came across when I was at the library this weekend. Despite having a stack of books on hold waiting for me, I couldn't resist at least glancing through the new mysteries on display. Laidlaw by William McIlvanney is one of Europa Editions World Noir titles. I always mean to (rather like the Lively book which I always mean to read . . . ) give more of those World Noir titles a try. Now's the moment. The book was originally published in the 1970s but has only just now made its way across the pond (or maybe it is a reissue?).
Anyway, this is the first book in a trilogy which I read has been credited with being the founding books for the Tartan Noir movement. Jack Laidlaw is apparently "the original damaged detective". I've had good luck with other Europa World Noir titles (Jean-Claude Izzo is amazing and I really need to get back to his books, too).
The story begins with a prologue:
"Running was a strange thing. The sound was your feet slapping the pavement. The lights of passing cars batted your eyeballs. Your arms came up unevenly in front of you, raching from nowhere, separate from you and from each other. It was like the hands of a lot of people drowning. And it was useless to notice these things. It was as if a car had crashed, the driver was dead, and this was the radio still playing to him."
The crime in this story is the murder of a young woman and in his investigation Laidlaw will confront "Glasgow's hard men, its gangland villains, and the moneyed thugs who control the city." As for Laidlaw:
"Laidlaw sat at his desk, feeling a bleakness that wasn't unfamiliar to him. Intermittently, he found himself doing penance for being him. When the mood seeped into him, nothing mattered. He could think of no imaginable success, no way of life, no dream of wishes fulfilled that would satisfy."
A little bleakness for October perhaps. Good thing it's going to be a sunny, warm week. Now I am off to get acquainted with these intriguing characters.