Who uses it: Australians
What it means: A sanctimonious killjoy
How you can use it: When someone's harshing your mellow, man.
Greetings from Bridgewater, Connecticut, where I'm having some communications challenges. I left my wireless Internet card in Washington (I think), so am using my friend Susan's Apple laptop to get online. For some reason, Safari is not allowing me access to my primary e-mail account, so if I owe you a reply, I'm sorry. On top of that, I left my cell phone charger on my kitchen table, so my phone's not working at the moment. Freud says there are no mistakes, so perhaps my Id needed to cut myself off for a day or two -- but my Ego and Superego are finding it VERY annoying.
Safari is not showing me Blogger's usual toolbar, so I can't use boldface or italics or any of my usual formatting. Later today I'll go to a Staples, and see if I can get myself back up to speed.
What I Read This Week
Evelyn Waugh, A Handful of Dust. Although Brideshead Revisited is one of my favorite books of all time, I'd never read this novel, a bitter, exceptionally black comedy about the failure of a marriage and the death of the old British way of life. Tony and Brenda Last live on his ancestral estate, in the British countryside. Their life seems perfect, until a cad comes to visit and Brenda decides she's in love with him. A random tragedy puts an end to the Lasts' life together, and Tony seeks comfort in a life of adventure and exploration -- which does not go as planned. The title is a quotation from T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," and at the end of this book, I wanted several very large drinks.
Robert Littell, Legends. A phenomenal spy novel about Martin Odum, a retired CIA agent who cannot remember which of his "legends" -- his undercover identities -- is the "true" one. Working as a private detective in Brooklyn, he agrees to pursue a missing husband who turns out to be a pivotal character from Odum's own past -- but which past?
Minette Walters, The Devil's Feather. War correspondent Connie Burns suspects that a mercenary she encounters in Sierra Leone and Iraq may be responsible for a series of brutal murders. On her way out of Iraq, she is kidnapped, then released after three days. She refuses to say anything about her time in captivity, but takes refuge under a false name in the British countryside -- where she finds that danger can be close to home as well as abroad. A terrific psychological thriller that shows how violence and cruelty are always personal, regardless of context. I read an advance copy; the book comes out next month.
Alice McDermott, After This. Alice McDermott signed my advance copy of this book at BookExpo America, and I thanked her for showing me how interesting my own family's stories could be; "It never occurred to me that my own family had such drama," I said, and she said, "I know, that's what I thought too." Reading this book, about an Irish Catholic family on Long Island in the 1950s and '60s, made me miss my mother so much I felt like howling. John and Mary Keane meet in their thirties, and have four children: Jacob, Michael, Annie and Clare, who grow up and go to their destinies, which are all heartbreaking in their own ways. The last few chapters of this book felt underdeveloped, but Alice McDermott on a bad day is still better than almost anyone else.