Since my post Books for Slow Reading (July 22) I’ve been taking note of the books I choose to read. The current batch are a mixed bag. I just finished The Lighthouse at the End of the World by Stephen Marlowe. I’ve just started The Terror by Dan Simmons and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. This is the first H.P. book I’ve read. I was intending to hold off until I was in my second childhood, but this one came to hand and I can’t resist a big, thick book. (Both it and The Terror have 766 pages, by the way, a pleasing coincidence). I have also recently started on Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander books.
So — why these books?
I picked up The Lighthouse at the End of the World because of its intriguing title, and decided to read it because it’s about Edgar Allan Poe, whose works I discovered at an impressionable age. This book — I don’t know. Marlowe creates memorable images with his prose, but the story grows increasingly improbable. About three quarters of the way in my disbelief could no longer remain suspended and hit the ground with a thud. Then it didn’t matter any more.
I saw references to The Terror in reviews of Dan Simmons’s Drood and thought it would be worth having a look at. So far (p. 79) it seems promising, but is definitely a Slow Read, which is appropriate for a story about slow death in ice.
Harry Potter, on the other hand, has a frenetic quality about it. The author piles on the details and hammers them home in such a way that the reader cannot but “get it,” whatever it is. Scenes are a bit too long, conversations go on and on, and there are so many characters I’m finding it difficult to keep them straight. When people scream really loudly, their words are rendered in ALL CAPS. And yet, it’s charming. I’m thinking it will be a relief from the grimness of The Terror.
Then there’s Mankell’s Kurt Wallander. So far I’ve read The Pyramid, a collection of short pieces intended to be a kind of “prequel” to the series, the first book, Faceless Killers, and Sidetracked. These books are immensely popular where I live; not one of them is just sitting on the shelf at my local library. I have had to put in requests for them and wait for days or weeks. This popularity is a bit of a mystery in itself, because I find that the details of the crimes the detective and his team has to solve fade and blend together fairly quickly once I’ve finished reading about them. For me, the attraction is the unfamiliar setting (southern Sweden) and Wallander himself. He’s such a mess, struggling with laundry and car problems, not to mention the complications of family and romantic relationships. Then there’s the matter-of-fact way Mankell presents all of this along with the details of the crimes that Wallander and his police colleagues wrestle with. I still don’t know why, but so far I can’t get enough of it.