Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What I'm Reading 3

This should actually be called "what I'm re-reading" because this is a book I read long ago but had since forgotten the content for the most part. And, to be perfectly honest, it should be "what I've just read" since I rarely post about a book until I've finished it.

Most people know the Monty Python troop mainly for their performances so it's easy to forget that they are all writers as well. They wrote their own sketches and movies. All of them have also gone on to write books about a variety of topics. I can't say that I've ever been especially drawn to most of their works beyond the T.V. series and movies (with a few exceptions) but my husband picked up Hemingway's Chair by Michael Palin a very long time ago.

When I initially read it, I thought it was quite good and now I like it even more. It's a novel about a postal worker who is a passionate fan of Hemingway. For those who possess as little fondness for Hemingway as me, I'm happy to say that the book has little to do with him and much more to do with the unremarkable lives of people in a quiet little town that can quickly become quite remarkable. It's also about finding depth under the surface of fussy little people.

Since this is Michael Palin, it's all served up with warm and subtle humor and a good deal of charm. If you've ever seen any of his travel series (which I highly recommend) or read the companion books for them, you'll have witnessed the same tone in which the story is delivered. One of the ways in which his humor works is offering up an situation which you've read in several dozen other books and pairing it with an unexpected reaction. For instance, as the main character's date prepares to meet him, she thinks about a former date:

"The other evening they'd been together down by the beach huts and he'd run his fingers very gently over her face, paying special attention to her lips. Elaine was curious to know where he'd learnt this, but didn't like to ask. She had concluded that it must have been from a magazine, or one of his books. She hadn't liked it much, as the tips of his fingers smelt of postal adhesive."

Hemingway's Chair is a light read but very well-written. You'll come away with an appreciation for how good Palin is with words and a feeling that he's a very intelligent person. It'd be an excellent book to take along on a long train or airplane ride. If you're in Japan, you can pick it up from Amazon Japan here.

Note that my copy has a different cover than the current printing. I'm guessing this is because the early copy had a cut-out on the post box on the cover (which allows Palin's eyes to show through from his picture on the inside page) and such covers are more expensive to produce than a normal cover.

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