The Song: "Strange Condition," Pete Yorn. Words & music by Pete Yorn. Track 2 of musicforthemorningafter, 2001.
How/when acquired: Gift CD, c. 2002.
This album is forever linked in my consciousness to Thanksgiving 2001, when a group of my friends and relations and I rented a cabin in Yosemite National Park and spent a long weekend hiking, drinking, eating, drinking, singing, drinking, playing goofy board games, drinking and trying to figure out what it meant to be an American after September 11. And drinking.
I think it was Meredith who brought this CD along, although it might have been Moira (if either of you check in, can you clarify/confirm?). I'd heard a few tracks on KCRW, but had not listened to the whole CD, and was enchanted. My sister Susan gave me the CD a few months later; it might have been for Christmas, but I think it was one of those "no reason" presents, which made it even more precious.
It's no exaggeration to say that I am addicted to stories. Books, movies, TV shows, drunks in bars — tell me a story and you have my attention, for as long as the story lasts. I am even willing to ignore or bend facts in the interest of improving a story, which is one of many reasons I will never (and should never) seek public office.
Doesn't everybody love a story? I think so. I think that is what distinguishes humans from other animals: the need to find reasons and predict outcomes, so that our lives are narratives and not just a string of sensory events. Dizzy doesn't do narrative; he goes from walk to cookie to car ride with few expectations and no context, just a series of unrelated incidents that please him. It's not a bad way to live, and sometimes I envy him; his whole life is a cascade of happy surprises. But I, like most human beings, want it all to mean something.
What I've Read Lately
It's been a while since I posted a reading list, and most of what I'm reading these days are manuscripts. But these are the highlights of the published work I've finished in the last month or so.
Alexandra Sokoloff, BOOK OF SHADOWS. I started this book a couple of months ago, but didn't finish it until a few weeks ago — not because it wasn't good, but because it was on my Kindle, and my Kindle's battery died. (Do I need to underline the moral of that story?) But it was a great summer read. Detective Adam Garrett and his partner investigate a gruesome murder with Satanic overtones. The obvious suspect is a college student who dabbled in witchcraft and was in love with the victim, but a local witch tells them they've got the wrong guy — and that the killer plans to strike again. Sokoloff does an excellent job of blending police procedural elements with the supernatural, leaving the nature of the attacks in doubt almost to the end.
Olen Steinhauer, THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS. I'm late to this book, but how glad I am that it finally reached the top of my reading pile. Steinhauer's debut introduces young homicide inspector Emil Brod, whose first case is a politically sensitive murder no one expects (or wants) him to solve. The identity of the killer is not as important as the ways people behave in this new, post-WWII society. Corruption is an inevitable byproduct of totalitarianism, but it might just be human nature. Brod does the best he can in pursuit of justice.
Harlan Coben, JUST ONE LOOK. The discovery of an old photograph, randomly inserted in a batch of new ones, sets Grace Lawson on a path of inquiry that leads to violence, death and the revelation of 15-year-old secrets. Grace is such a compelling character, and the action moves so quickly, that I had a hard time putting this book down — but the explanation of how it all happened is complex and hard to follow. It didn't entirely hold together for me, but I was so entertained along the way that I didn't care.
Victor Gischler, THE DEPUTY. Toby Sawyer is a part-time deputy in Coyote Crossing, Oklahoma. He has a toddler, an unhappy wife, and a teenaged girlfriend. A routine assignment to stand watch over the corpse of a murder victim turns into the worst night of Toby's life; when he sneaks off for a quickie, the body disappears, and Toby's efforts to find it reveal a tangled, sordid web of corruption. Fast, smart, violent and darkly funny, with a most satisfying ending.
Laura Lippman, I'D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE. Eliza Benedict has a loving husband, two smart children and a beautiful home in Chevy Chase, Maryland. What almost no one knows is that 20 years earlier, she was Elizabeth Lerner, the only survivor of a serial rapist/killer. Weeks before the killer's scheduled execution, Eliza gets a letter from him, asking for contact. This extraordinary book is less a crime novel than a meditation on how people survive the unimaginable, how we become who we are, and what we owe the living, the dead, and ourselves.