Expecting rain (and we did have a little overnight), I was pleasantly surprised when the day dawned clear again this morning. Not even cold yet, either, although icicles and snowflakes are showing in the short-term forecast.
Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson, was a calming book with which to read myself to sleep and with which to begin the day. The main character is a calm, steady person. That trait alone might be boring, but in this old man it is joined with a deep joy and appreciation for all aspects of life on earth. "I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again." Anticipating death and rebirth into a bodiless, incorruptible heavenly life, yet he loves human existence and the whole "fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing...." Over and over, day after day, close to the end of his life on earth he notices wondrous details of it--acorns falling thickly through the leaves of a row of oak trees, the shimmer of light on a child's hair, or the particular, comforting sound of the latch of a door closing.
That reading prepared me for the morning's adventure with Sarah, out in our new, semi-wild exercise ground, down the faint two-track through the remains of an old orchard (remaining leaves bright yellow in the morning sun), through dry grass and weeds bleached almost colorless, sunlight outlining fuzzy sumac branches with glistening halos.
Robert Underhill's third murder mystery is here and on the bookstore shelves. (Actually, it's on the table right by the door, so no one will miss it.) This one is set in Ann Arbor, on the university campus. Death of the Mystery Novel, Bob has called it--though somehow he himself is continuing to write mystery novels, and what are we to make of that? The setup guarantees laughs, when the chairman of the English Department, believing that sales of popular fiction is the surest guarantee of literary quality, inaugurates a series to honor best-selling contemporary genre authors, writers of murder mystery and horror titles. What might be called an unfortunate series of events begins when the first visitor dies after dinner with the faculty. Deaths continue, each bizarrely mirroring something not of the murderer's but of the victim's literary signature. I tell Bob he has a "devilish" sense of humor; he insists his humor is "mischievous." As to how the string of crimes is finally solved, my lips are sealed, though I'll be very interested in what other readers make of the ending.
In a more serious vein, today's book order going out (books to arrive next week) includes a new title from Robert Kuttner. He went out on a limb with this one, predicting the subprime crash before it occurred and also betting that Obama would win the election. Obama's Challenge addresses many serious issues ahead for the United States, along with Kuttner's advice on how to handle some of them. (He is an economic writer whose books I have discussed before; use his name as a search word above to see where.) To sweeten the deal, this book is out in paperback right off the bat! I don't know if that was to sell more copies fast or so the publisher wouldn't lose too much if the course of history had taken another direction, but I'm happy to be able to carry this timely book in affordable format and look forward to reading it myself. Kuttner always makes good sense, in my opinion.