It is unusual for my reading habits to venture out of the mystery genre, but occasionally they do. It was the talented Neil Gaiman who advised would-be writers to read outside of the genre one writes to get a different perspective. Over the past few days I’ve finished four books: two memoirs, one piece of fiction and a sci-fi classic for the second time.
The memoirs are diametrically opposed in content but surprisingly similar in their approach; writing about the influential people in the author’s life. In a sense I guess that’s what we all are anyway, the product of all those we have crossed paths and swords with over the years.
I was a Siskel & Ebert junkie, more than likely because I love movies and was, for a brief spell, a film critic for two radio stations and a local newspaper – and I mean local. One of those freebie community papers waiting at the door of the supermarket, the ones shoppers grab ten or fifteen copies of so they have enough to start a fire, wrap fish or line the cat’s litter box. I read Life Itself, Ebert’s final work before his death, in the hopes of finding more hollywood back story adventures and while there are flashes of those tales, each chapter focuses on a person central to Ebert’s life. Sometimes passages flounder into little more than a name-dropping festival, but on the whole there is enough humor and loving care Ebert shows for these folks to make it an enjoyable read. Thumbs Up.
The same approach was applied to Tom Harvey’s Don’t Fight With the Garden Hose and Other Lessons I’ve Learned Along the Way. I know – Tom who? It doesn’t matter. He’s just a guy and the people he writes about may be all strangers but he presents them with a loving hand to the point where I want to know these people. The blog-style presentation is both humorous and heart-felt.
Finishing Asimov’s Second Foundation marks my second journey through the original Foundation trilogy. I first read it as a teenager and couldn’t quite grasp the imagery required – this was a dozen years before Star Wars and just prior to 2001:A Space Odyssey – which shows the scope of Asimov’s imagination and vision – having written the books in the early 1950’s. If anything, in this technological age, the ideas presented in the pages are even more plausible now.
Finally, one that really caught me off guard. Russell Rowland’s High and Inside is story of anger, redemption and forgiveness, told through Pete Hurley, a baseball pitcher whose career ends after he beans a batter in the head with a pitch. The protagonist is an asshole narcissist who pisses everyone off, but there was something about Pete Hurley and the supporting cast that rang true enough to want more, leading to uncovering family skeletons and making amends. There are some style issues that need smoothing but it’s not enough to keep the story from flowing and the characters from being true to life. Play ball.