Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Sea, some books, and an Ode

I live near the ocean. I mean, compared to my old place, which was in Downtown Regina, I pretty much roll outta bed right into the surf.
Okay, it's not really the ocean, it's a strait. And I have to take two buses just to get a look at it. But I do live pretty close to False Creek, which is less creek-y than and just as false as the one I left behind in Regina (on the Canadian Prairies all geography not vast vistas is manmade), and sometimes I like to go down there and watch the yachts do nothing all day.

Most days I take the New York Times Crossword and a book. Sometimes, just a book. I haven't transcended my adolescent shame enough to read comic books--or even graphic novels--in public, but I'm not really too many of those these days anyhow. I've been reading a lot of text-only (or lightly illustrated) books lately, thanks to a surfeit of sunny days, and enjoying most of them.

Sideswipe by Charles Willeford - A loaner from one co-worker or another (I'm honestly not sure which co-worker it belongs to), this is a winner. You might recognize protagonist Hoke Moseley, the overwhelmed Miami Police detective with false teeth, from the Alec Baldwin flick Miami Blues, where he was played by Fred Ward. I only vaguely do--in fact, Ward taking out his teeth is pretty much all I remember of the film. For some reason I thought Lyle Lovett was in it, but imdb says he's not. Who else would be down with a buddy-cop film starring Lovett and Ward?

Sideswipe starts with Moseley's nervous breakdown one morning before work, and casually strolls along its way as he does everything he can (he even cheats at Monopoly) to avoid going to work. It's incredibly easy-going and likable, taking its time to let its many characters really show themselves to you, even as some of them fight against their own true nature. There's one scene, just before the climax, that really knocked my socks off. Moseley's superior at the Miami PD tries to convince him to come back to work. It's just two men sitting in a tiny apartment talking, but it stands out as one of my favourite passages in any book ever.

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon - Okay, so I'm a big Chabon fan, but I had a really hard time working my way through this book. This one was originally serialized in The New York Times, and maybe read better at a rate of a chapter per week. In it, Chabon explores the serial adventure set in days of yore a la Don Quixote, and even adopts Cervantes's style (or at least that of whichever translator it was that I read) of overelocution. I don't know if there's even one simple, direct sentence in the whole volume. While it has high adventure, decent enough humour and brings an interesting Jewish viewpoint to the travelling adventurer genre, Gentlemen of the Road is a bit of a drag.

Boomsday by Christopher Buckley - Now this is more like it. Fast, ribald, a sweet combo of broad satire and pointed criticism. Set mostly around a Washington DC PR firm (where Terry Tucker stands in for Thank You For Smoking's Nick Naylor), Boomsday concerns a young blogger's modest proposal to solve the US's mounting Social Security crisis: tax incentives for babyboomers to off themselves before they drain the reserves and put the burden of their comfortable retirement squarely on the shoulders of our heroine's generation. She even comes up with a classy name for it: Voluntary Transitioning. The novel sweetly swings between deft humour and blatant-as-it-gets parody; Transitioning's main opponent is a sweaty biblethumper named Gideon Payne.

The Black Book by Ian Rankin - Yes, I'm back on the Rebus. I'm about halfway through this, and I think it might be my favourite yet. Even better than Tooth & Nail.


The Instruments (pictured above, photo by Nick Cervini) orbit around Heather McIntosh, who has played cello with everyone from Elf Power to Gnarls Barkley. Their new album is called Dark Småland and it's out now on Orange Twin Records. They've got a lush, melodic sort of lo-fi Stereolab thing going on that works on a summer night like this.

mp3: "Ode to the Sea" by the Instruments
mp3: "Sounds Electric" by the Instruments

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