Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Weakerthans

I ventured to DC with a crew on Sunday night to check out the Weakerthans at the 930 club once again. I think this is the third time I've seen them and it's been an excellent show each time. They tend to stay close to the studio versions of their songs, but there is enough energy packed into those songs to keep the pace of the show tight. The highlights for me were "Plea From a Cat Named Virtute," "Watermark," and, as always, John Samson on the stage alone doing "One Great City!"

We, We, We

Yesterday I finished the National Book Award-nominated Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. The gimmick here is that the novel is told from the first person plural. The novel opens with an excellent, hilarious section and I found myself wondering if he could keep that up for the duration. With the exception of a straightforward, third person section in the middle, he does. And he does it well. Ferris manages to allow certain characters that are part of the "we" to stand out and develop without losing the feel of the storytelling situation he has set up. It's quite a feat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Making Amends to Laura Lippman

I had read numerous great reviews for Laura Lippman's work (and not just from hometown Baltimore writers) when I picked up one of her novels in a bookstore and read through the first couple of pages. It was one of the Tess Monaghan novels, possibly Baltimore Blues, her first, and I was completely disappointed. Typical genre stuff, I thought. I put it down and wrote her off. I even mentioned my disappointment to a couple of people when the subjects of books, authors, etc. came up. Still, I kept coming across praise for Lippman here and there and I just didn't get it.

A few months later, I was in a used book store right after an eye doctor's appointment--the store is in the same shopping center as my eye doctor's office--and, struggling with blurry vision from the eye drops, I wandered through the stacks with nothing jumping out at me. In fact, I had to get within centimeters of the spines to actually read the titles. Not needing any books and frustrated with my inability to see them anyway, I found myself in the Mystery section and found a mass market paperback copy of Laura Lippman's Every Secret Thing. For $2.99, how could I lose?

It turned out to be a great deal. The writing was sharp and devoid of clich├ęs, the characters were interesting and well-formed, and the plot was tasty. Add to that the superficial thrill of familiarity with all of the locations and landmarks in the novel and I was completely hooked. At times it felt like I was watching a crime show, but it was a really good crime show. I highly recommend it and I'll be checking out some of her other non-Tess books as soon as I get through the stack of books next to my desk.