Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Peculiar Crimes of the (Cross Out Fart) Heart

Day 91 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project. Gus has been reading The Victoria Vanishes: a Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery in the series by Christopher Fowler, because someone in Babbitt's, probably Jo, recommended it. "It's a scream!" said Gus, who also really enjoyed "the smarmy look on the author's face" in his photo on the book jacket. I don't know if it's the same photo as on Fowler's author page at Amazon, and I probably don't fully know what "smarmy" means, but the guy looks really satisfied with his success.

These books sound hilarious, just the thing if you love mystery and comedy. The only mystery I have read since my Nancy Drew days was The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey, also recommended by someone formerly at Babbitt's, Julie--about the mystery of Richard III--so maybe I should try some Christopher Fowler. (And, of course, the Stieg Larsson, waiting on the shelf.)

Almost all of us at Babbitt's are soon to be formerly, as it's a tough time for independent bookstores, as we all know. We were noticing, though, that people are buying $4 hardbacks out the wazoo, as that is still a great deal. (I don't really know what a "wazoo" is, either, but I vaguely recall an actual conversation about its likely offensive connotations--sorry!--and its inoffensive resemblance to a kazoo.) Hmm, a comedy/mystery occurs to me: The Personnel Vanishes, set in a bookstore. Employees keep mysteriously dying, so the boss doesn't have to fire them. Or set fire to them. The plot quickens. Subtitle: Up in Smoke, or Out the Wazoo.

I have too much fun in life.

Gus also loved Just Kids, Patti Smith's memoir, just out in January. I should read it to find out how to transform myself, as one review says, "from a poet to a rock star," or at least to the girl singer in my imaginary band, Midlife Crisis.

I have too much fun in my head.

Really, I should read this, as I have always wanted to know more about Patti Smith's romance with playwright Sam Shepard, and I have seen the astonishing and controversial photography of her first lover and dear friend Robert Mapplethorpe. The book is also a tribute to him.

So maybe if it comes in to Babbitt's, before I go out (the wazoo), I will!


Kim said...

You have just the right amount of fun in your blog, though!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like yet another serio-comic mystery series that I will have to read, in all my spare time. Fowler's premise sounds fun - and faintly reminiscent of Robert L. Fish's elderly crime writers in "The Murder League," "Rub-A-Dub-Dub," and "A Gross Carriage of Justice" (albeit from the other side of the dock).

Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time" is one of her best novels, though all six or so of the Inspector Grant stories are worth reading, as is "Brat Farrar."

My shelves are peopled (better than pockmarked) with transatlantic mystery writers from the 20s through the 60s - Tey, Michael Innes (J.I.M. Stewart - of Inspector Appleby), Margery Allingham (conjuring up images of Peter Davison as Albert Campion from that great series that ran on PBS - ah, a while back). Agatha Christie is looming behind Dorothy Sayers and Georgette Heyer (the books have to the double-rowed to fit). Have to admit that I've only read Philip MacDonald's "List of Adrian Messenger," and not the rest of the Inspector Gethryn novels. (Certainly enjoyed the movies and TV shows he scripted.)

I hope Babbitt pulls through - I try to support our independent booksellers around here. Politics & Prose is a stalwart here in DC; a great place to go to hear writers (Gwen Ifill, Christopher Buckley, Terry Pratchett, and T.R. Reid are just a few who they've hosted the last few years), and find treats. But the used bookstores down around Dupont Circle hold their own treasures, too. Last time I dropped by one, I picked up ten books: some novels, an essay collection, some archeological history, and some delightful literary criticism ("Contested Will," by James Shapiro). So, all hail the independent bookstores!