Tuesday, February 3, 2009

44 Scotland Street

You know how people say they love cracking open a new book? I am not one of those people. I love to be IN a book. But I hate to start a book. It's so much work getting to know the characters, the setting, the time. It's much better to just be there with them.

Which is why I love a series. I love to open a book and be welcomed into a familiar world but a new story.

I spent January back and forth between a couple of them, alternating between John Scalzi's Old Man's War trilogy and Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland Street books

It was weird bouncing back and forth between these two really really different kinds of books and I can't quite reckon now why I did... but, no matter. In the end, I had an awfully enjoyable month of reading in January.

Let me start here with 44 Scotland Street.

Imagine Evelyn Waugh didn't hate people, and you get close to these books. You get the wit and the atmosphere and this world of people with more money and more education and better conversation than you. But there's no cynicism or schadenfraude. Instead, you'll just want to head off to Edinburgh, take a long walk and look around and then have dinner with almost all the characters (others you'll want to smack upside the head... only George Eliot can get away with no bad guys).

There's an anthropologist who always knows the right thing to say. And a character who spouts off the most wonderful extemporaneous poetry. And he has a dog... named Cyril! Who not only has his own internal narrative, but he drinks beer! And manages to do both those things without being cutesy. Read the books and you get the idea that Smith really likes people and he really likes being alive and he likes writing. And, probably, he'd even like you. Check this out:

People said he had a tendency to go on and on, and I suppose he did. But those long stories of his, sometimes without any apparent point to them, were stories that were filled, yes filled, with an enthusiasm for life. Ramsey found things fascinating, even when others found them dull. In his own peculiar way, he celebrated the life of ordinary people, ordinary places, ordinary things.

Sigh. I love that.

OK, I'm heading off to Amazon to buy the two I have left in the series. So far!