Saturday, November 15, 2008

mild mannered philosophising

Sometimes, particularly before bed, I just have to read books that don't require me to think too much. And in this way, Alexander McCall Smith fits the bill perfectly. That being said, I didn't take to the Botswanan detective agency series where it seemed to me that he hadn't quite struck the balance between his slowly building plots and his mild mannered philosophising of the everyday. I think this is why I like the Isabel Dalhousie series better. Just now bedtime reading is the most recent The Comfort of Saturdays. Don't ask me what it's actually about...some kind of medical/pharmaceutical issue that Isabel is gently poking her nose into. This is what interests me least. What I like are the descriptions of Edinburgh, the architecture, the people, her niece's delicatessen, and the fact that Isabel's partner is a younger bassoonist allowing McCall Smith to write quietly and intelligently about music.

And it is this last topic that he really explores in the most recent La's Orchestra Saves the World. Apart from falling into the trap of the current fad for stupidly long book titles, this one had a slightly weightier theme being set in and around World War Two in country Suffolk, where a young woman escaping a bad marriage sets up an amateur orchestra. There is a lovely review of it in today's Weekend Australian Review. It's was a comforting reading experience, yet it made me think about my own involvement in community music activities in a positive way, emphasising the importance of the arts generally as a complementary salve to other darker and more serious social issues.

Of course the worlds McCall Smith constructs are all very idealised and escapist...fantasies in their own way. And that's why I like reading them I suppose.

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