Today is my birthday. It's not a "big" birthday, but it's a special birthday. I think all birthdays are special. My little family cleared out of the house so I could have a conversation with a dear friend. We hadn't spoken in six months, which is criminal, but there you have it. We spoke for an hour and caught up with each other's lives. Then, I had an hour and a half to myself, while the guys ran errands. The house was so quiet—ideal to cozy up with a book.
I'm currently reading People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, and I'm really enjoying it. I had just finished reading an ARC of Scott Muskin's The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama's Boy and Scholar, and although I enjoyed it—a lot—the novel is a redemption song about a broken man. It's the kind of book with deliberate character studies and situations that you can admire for the artfulness of the writing, but, by turns, you're often left emotionally drained. Even the uplifting bits can make you feel a little empty. I think Scott Muskin is all kinds of talented, and I want to help him promote this book by recommending that everyone read it.
Where was I going with that? Before I finished Annunciations, I realized I needed a novel that was the polar opposite—a lushly descriptive historical novel. So People of the Book has fit the bill. Also, the plot is woven between various time periods and places—1940 Sarajevo, 1894 Vienna, 1609 Venice, 1492 Tarragona (Spain), and 1480 Seville—always returning to 1996 Vienna. I'm nearly at the half-way point, but I have yet to experience true dramatic tension. I don't think this is a bad thing because the writing flows, and I like being tranported through each section. In many ways, the atmosphere of mystery puts me in mind of Katherine Neville's The Eight or even Shadow of the Wind, though not as dark. My friend Caryl says the themes remind her of The Book Thief.
For nonfiction, I have my nose in Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, personalizing the meditation by swapping out "running" for "cycling." I can identify with how his chosen sport elevates his thought-plain (outlining plots or developing characters). He listens to music. Cycling allows me similar opportunities and is a balm for anxiety or depression. But enough about me.
For years, friends and booksellers have been recommending Murakami to me, but I've never gotten around to reading him. And although this book is hardly typical of his novels, it's still engaging, especially the bits about how he became a novelist or about the period of time when he owned a jazz club. This is a slim volume that you think you're going to breeze through until you find yourself copying down the clever bits and mulling them before you start reading again and suddenly it takes three weeks to read a 5 x 7-trim size with wide margins.