Friday, July 10, 2015

Airplane mode

Nothing like a cross-country flight with storm delays for providing some extended pleasure-reading time... Not to mention the welcome distraction of an absorbing novel during the episodes of storm-related turbulence.

I made it through three novels in transit (including a little down time while visiting in Florida).

Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was recommended to me by my chain-reading friend and colleague, Michael Kevane. As I reported to another friend, it's quite a fine little novel. Very funny and deeply cynical. And rather creepy. It's short enough to be a novella, really, but that's just a function of the extraordinary economy of the prose. I can't recall ever seeing the movie version, but having finally read the book I'm not sure how they could have pulled it off: the book is full of time jumps and foreshadowings. Miss Brodie is very sharply drawn, but the true protagonist is her aptly named student, Sandy Stranger. She's strange for sure and, ultimately, a stranger, inscrutable.

Peter Carey's Amnesia masquerades as a cyber-thriller, hackers against corporate evil-doers, but it is really the family saga of three generations of feisty Australian women, and the journalist who chronicles their story. Carey is not an economical writer, but he is a good story-teller. Still, I found the book meandered a bit. One thing I learned is how woefully ignorant I am of Australian history. The CIA-backed Coup of 1975? I'll be damned.

When in Florida: Carl Hiaasen! Sick Puppy may not be his best, but it is packed with the usual screwball characters, local color, and funny set pieces. In the genre of comic crime novels, Elmore Leonard will never be surpassed. But Hiaasen is not a bad substitute, especially when one is heading to the Sunshine State, with which he has an obvious love-hate relationship.

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