INSPECTOR MONTALBANO SERIES By Andrea Camilleri
Any one of the nearly 30 Inspector Montalbano crime novels of Andrea Camilleri, who, sadly, died in mid July, at the wonderful life-lived age of 93.
Honestly, I’ve read all but the latest (waiting for that in English) and they are all superbly done. If I had to pick, I’d say go with Rounding the Mark, because that’s the first I read. The books are formulaic in the best of ways, i.e. in the way that James Bond or Sherlock Holmes stories are. They’re set in the imaginary seaside town of Vigata, in Camilleri’s native Sicily, where the mafia pervade like humidity, and control most of daily life just as invisibly, with a core group of individually drawn, comfortably predictable and gloriously entertaining officers surrounding the unorthodox Montalbano.
Camilleri literally had a formula of 18 chapters ten pages long (which I never realized to be the case, so freshly does each story uncoil itself, until I read that in his obits!). But Montalbano is a complicated, never fully resolved, often insecure, organic character, who solves crime in a particularly Sicilian way, which means some things are sometimes deliberately left unsettled, and some people spared an indignity that would serve no one.
Bob Guccione, Jr.
THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD By Claire Lombardo
I read two books a week, but this book took me two whole months to finish. Not because it’s a big fat 530 page slugfest, but because it’s one of the best damn books I’ve ever read, and I knew when I was finished I’d be sad with a book hangover.
Everything you want in a novel is within these pages. Multi-generational family drama (and as I have said before, family drama is so fun when it’s not yours), brilliant writing, surprises until the end and it’s set in Chicago! Who doesn’t love Chicago?
RED AT THE BONE By Jacqueline Woodson
My followup read was the new Jacqueline Woodson novel, and I don’t think I need to say much more than it’s a new book from Jacqueline Woodson, so obviously you should read it yesterday. It was difficult not to blow through it in one sitting, but a girl has to come up for air occasionally.
It opens in September 2001 in Brooklyn, at a 16-year-old’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ brownstone. She is wearing her mother’s coming of age dress, which was custom made for her 16 years earlier but never worn. Do the math. We get to go back and forth in time, learning what made this family who they are, the ties that bind them together and cut them apart, and are given lessons about identity, class, race, religion and the cost of ambition and success. Take us to school, Jacqueline. Take us to school.
THE ART OF THE DATE by Rori Sassoon and Dr Errol Gluck
A & G Press
Do you remember when getting and going on a date was a ritual, an art, a sport, a drama, before it was an algorithm? To put it another way, you wouldn’t be here if dating was all algorithms when your parents were single, as they’d almost definitely not have met each other.
And algorithmic match ups are like some kind of free sampling for an hour over coffee, where each pays for their own. It’s about as sexy as opening a bank account. Tinder is really just a dressed up tech version of 70s sex clubs like Plato’s Retreat in New York. Sites like Match.com are the digital age descendants of the Lonely Hearts clubs of the last century and the culturally-honored matchmakers of the last many thousands of years.
Dating is not meant to be a science! Except in the sense that it’s meant to be chemistry (actual biological chemistry it turns out, as well as the metaphorical and poetic kind — find Robert Trivers, or, more easily, his work, and he’ll explain). It is meant to be, with all due respect to your phone — that is to say, none — an art, as our Love Interests columnist Rori Sassoon and her business partner Dr. Errol Gluck proclaim in the title of their most excellent book on the subject. The two of them founded a high end (i.e. expensive and highly curated) matchmaking service in New York called Platinum Poire, and they — old fashioned fools! — believe in romance. Romance is awkwardness, pain, stress, anxiety, sex, more sex, greater sex! and love. Usually in that order. In other words, it makes life worth living.