Saturday, February 13, 2010

A few days ago, I finished Old School, a novel by Tobias Wolff.

Tobias Wolff is also the author of one of my favourite books, This Boy's Life.  That book is an actual memoir and, while this book is not literal memoir, it feels like one.  The protagonist has things in common with the author - being a poorer kid attending an elite prep school, leaving during senior year, and serving in Vietnam - but it is not actually Wolff's life.

The book feels very episodic, based around the visits of three authors: Robert Frost, Ayn Rand and Ernest Hemingway.  The students at the prep school get a chance to meet privately with the authors if their stories are contest winners.  The protagonist tries for all three prizes but gets foiled along the way.

An OK, but very slight book.  Nowhere near as powerful as his actual memoir.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I've been swamped at work, so I haven't had time to post, but last week I finished Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith.

This is the second of his 44 Scotland Street series, which I wrote about here.  

The second book is not as strong as the first - it focuses almost exclusively on characters I'm less interested in, like the prodigy Bertie and his family, and the older conservative Ramsey Dunbarton, and some of the other characters, like Domenica, comes across less sympathetically.

It does continue some strong gags, like the Pollock's missing car, that are very amusing.

Hopefully the rest of the series will be more like the first than the second book.