Friday, March 04, 2005

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

The Movie: Steel Magnolias, 1989 (Robert Harling, screenwriter; Herbert Ross, dir.)
Who says it: Dolly Parton as hairdresser Truvy Jones
The context: Truvy and her friends gather for an Easter celebration after the death of one of their own.
How to use it: Self-explanatory.

Crime fiction dominates this week's reading list once again... and the list is a little longer than usual, because all the travel delays meant more reading time. When I got to Maeve's on Monday night, she asked, "Were you reading in the cab?" because I was carrying my book outside my tote bag.

"No," I said, "It's just a handy place to store pieces of paper." That was true, but it was also true that it was just too dark to read in the cab from LaGuardia. Plus, I get carsick trying to read in cabs.

In order, this is what I read this week.

Reed Farrell Coleman, The James Deans. I haven't read either of Coleman's earlier Moe Prager novels (Redemption Street and Walking the Perfect Square), but after reading this one, I'll seek them out. The plot of this book, about the disappearance of a young political operative, is secondary to the beautifully-drawn character of Moe Prager, ex-cop, wine merchant, and devoted family man. Moe reminds me of another of my favorite fictional characters, Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar.

Alexander McCall Smith, Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Professor McCall Smith is absurdly prolific, and his books are uniformly charming. This series of linked short stories introduces Professor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology, and the best of them made me laugh out loud.

Christopher Fowler, Full Dark House. Just what I need, a new series to be addicted to. Fowler's detectives, Bryant and May, are the oldest active members of the London police force, in charge of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Think a geriatric Mulder and Scully, except they're both men. This, a history of their first case, concerns a series of murders in a London theater during the Blitz. I already have an advance copy of the second Bryant and May book, The Water Room.

P. J. Tracy, Dead Run. The third book in the Minneapolis-based Monkeewrench series finds the two women of Monkeewrench, Grace and Annie, on the road with their friend and colleague, Deputy Sheriff Sharon Mueller. A detour and a breakdown put them in the middle of a mysteriously deserted town, under siege by a paramilitary group. Nonstop action, wonderful characters, another installment in a terrific series.

David Sedaris, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. David Sedaris is a genius, and it's not just because his large, slightly deranged, Greek Orthodox family reminds me so much of my own large, slightly deranged, Irish Catholic family. You'll laugh, you'll cry, sometimes even in the same sentence.

All of these books are currently available in your local bookstore or library, except for Dead Run, which comes out in April.

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