Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nevermore: Marco Effect, Scotland Street, Stoner, and Jim Henson

Nevermore started off with a recommendation for The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen, the latest in the Danish author’s popular Department Q series.  In this entry, a young gypsy runs afoul of his uncle, a powerful and ruthless criminal boss and is forced to flee. Detective Inspector Carl Morck becomes interested when a body turns up and the investigation quickly turns international, covering not only Europe but Africa as well.  Our reviewer said all the unusual names made the book a bit of a challenge but the story made it worth it.  She praised it for the use of humor to ease the tension and for the novels many layers.  The multiple plot lines are handled very well.  She recommends all the Department Q novels, especially for anyone who likes Scandinavian mysteries (aka Nordic Noir.)

Sunshine on Scotland Street is the new (at least new to the U.S.!) entry in Alexander McCall Smith’s charming series about the residents of 44 Scotland Street.  The books began as a serial publication in The Scotsman, and then the chapters were compiled into a book.  The chapters go back and forth between characters in the book, and our reviewer said he’d like it if the books were reissued by character so that you’d follow one person’s exploits and then pick up the next book to read about someone else.  

Stoner by John Williams was originally published in 1965 and has since risen to classic status.  The story is set in the early part of the 20th century and follows the life of William Stoner, a farm boy who falls in love with literature.  He follows his heart and leaves agriculture to become an English professor. His marriage is an unhappy one; his career is damaged by departmental politics; and he engages in an affair, a shocking breach at the time.  The book has been praised by the NY Times Book Review, The Times Literary Supplement, and numerous other sources as an outstanding achievement.

Another member was reading Jim Henson:  The Biography by Brian Jay Jones and enjoying it.  It turns out that Henson was not always a fan of puppets.  He was, however, an avid fan of television. When he learned there was a job opening for a puppeteer at a local television station, he went to his local public library and checked out several books on the subject, made a puppet, and the rest is Muppet history.  According to the book, part of the reason for Jim’s success was that he had not formally trained as a puppeteer, so his approach to some of the staging was unique.  The book, written in cooperation with Henson’s family, is thorough, fascinating, and honest. Fans of Kermit and Miss Piggy will enjoy it, but so will anyone interested in how one man altered an art form and created a pop culture empire.

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