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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Saturday, August 06, 2005

errands and fiction

The sun is hot. Kimmie trundles barefoot between kitchen and balcony with her plastic watering-can, giving drinks to the petunias and lobelia out back.

We're home from our Saturday errands: breakfast at the Corner Cafe with Robin (who's back home after 2 weeks of housesitting for her cousin Lisa in Lynn Valley); then to Park Royal in search of something to help us fix our dryer vent-pipe, which was plumbed in vertically behind the machine, but attached with duct tape, which keeps pulling apart under the forces of heat and gravity; to Shoppers Drug Mart so Kimmie could get eyedrops (her eyes turn a ghastly pink unless she puts drops in them: some combination of reaction to eye makeup and, I believe, drinking); I stopped in at Coles Books (nothing of interest, as usual); then to Mark's Work Wearhouse so I could buy some "wifebeaters" (singlets); to the butcher to buy marinated chicken breasts for tonight's dinner; to the library to pick up the video selection for tonight, night 3 of Paul's Rom-Com Festival, The Apartment with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine; to Winners where we decided to fork over $80 for a new set of stainless flatware; refreshed ourselves with a can of grapefruit pop (Kim) and Jamaican-style ginger beer (me); Super7 lottery ticket for Kimmie; 2 pairs of new thongs (or flip-flops, as they are now called, presumably to avoid confusion with the panties of the same name) for Kimmie; green beans for dinner; and 3 bottles of red Chilean wine to put in our "cellar" (the little unfinished supply room down here in the basement).

Thus do we spend our time on a Saturday. Yes, I did key some morning notes from From Eden to Exile.

And how am I doing with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency? Still reading, still enjoying. I'm now at page 122 of 235, so over halfway. My thoughts: The book is episodic; there is still not a clearly focused main story. Personally, I think that's a liability since it makes the book less interesting than it could and should be. Also, the book sometimes feels like it's written for children, with its simple language and sometimes very short chapters. Chapter 6 was 6 pages. Chapter 7 also 6 pages. Chapter 8 also 6 pages. Chapter 9: 29 pages. Chapter 10: 2 pages. I find these erratic page-counts a bit distracting, and the shortness of the chapters makes it harder, for me, to get involved. We've barely started narrating something, and we're already done.

These are relatively minor complaints. To its great credit, this book does not dish up cliches. The author knows the world of his story, so it comes across as authentic and fresh--the opposite of cliche. Most novels rely more or less heavily on cliches, betraying the ignorance or indifference of their authors. Alexander McCall Smith, in this book, does not. The characters and situations come across as real: things that the writer has observed. That feature puts this book automatically in the higher class of fiction.

Think I'll go read some now.


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