Loot and other stories by Nadine Gordimer
The Reader: An African woman wearing a purple knitted hat who works at the World Bank.
The Book: South African Gordimer won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991. This collection was published in 2003. The description of the title story in the New York Times using phrases like "whimsical allegory" makes me unsure if I would like it. I don't do well with allegory. Even this description confuses me:
...death is a treasure, the mirror of the self. Set in the aftermath of an earthquake so strong that it ''drew back the ocean as a vast breath taken,'' ''Loot'' describes a world of lost things revealed: ''People rushed to take; take, take.'' One among them, a retired man, long divorced, joins the crowd in search of a single unknown and unnamed object. It turns out to be a mirror, and even as he seizes it, he is drowned.The Verdict: I read some Gordimer not long after she won the Nobel. I am not sure I was ready for it but I always meant to go back and read more. Seeing this one reminds me that I need to do that. I am not sure, however, if I would choose short stories.
Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen
The Reader: A gentleman with longer than normal (for Washington) dark, curly, hair. He wasn't very far along in the book and had a fidgety look on his face that suggested that he either didn't read much or didn't feel like reading at the moment. It was rainy this morning so he was wearing a really bright yellow rain slicker over a thick sweater. Now, it may not yet be balmy here in DC, but I was hot just looking at him in what must have been a very warm sweater. There is a disease here in DC that makes folks dress way too warmly despite what the weather is doing. Rain makes people think they need to bundle up. But if the temps aren't that cool, and if the Metro car is toasty, why all the clothes? A variation on this is when, usually in the spring or fall, it is quite chilly in the morning but warms up significantly during the day. Yet, despite the warm afternoon weather they still put on the scarf, gloves, and hat for the commute home as if it was still cold out, apparently unaware that those items would easily fit in a bag or briefcase.
The Book: I don't really like crime fiction but this one sounds kind of amusing. Man thinks he has killed his wife. Rather than come back from the dead and have him prosecuted, wife decides with the help of another to make her husband's life unravel. The Washington Post thinks the characters could have been written by Evelyn Waugh. Somehow I am skeptical.
The Verdict: I have seen Hiassen's books over the years, but, judging them by their covers, determined they weren't for me. After reading the synopsis of this title I am inclined to think I probably made the right call.
Fresh Air Fiend by Paul Theroux
The Reader: Tall, skinny guy with glasses and an orange rain jacket. His copy was pretty battered and he was headed into the homestretch of this 422-page book.
The Book: Thank god for the powers of Barnes and Noble's search engine because I only managed to see the first two words of the title and no author. Turns out it is a collection of travel essays and articles. From Maine to Hong Kong.
The Verdict: I read Paul Theroux's novel The London Embassy years ago and kind of liked it. But I really have to be in the mood for this kind of episodic travelog. The man in the organge jacket reading it looked like he was ready to grab a backpack, get on a plane, and follow in Theroux's footsteps.