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Tuesday, December 01, 2020
1. What are you currently reading? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I first got the notion to pick this one up again last summer, when I reread The Diary of Anne Frank. For these were two of the books that had a massive impact on my adolesence, and I wondered if they would still strike me as powerful.
Yes, they do. To completely and clumsily oversimplify the appeal of these classics, they are both told in unerringly authentic voices. Over the decades I've heard both Anne and Scout in my head, because they were such real, honest truth tellers.
To concentrate solely on this one for a moment, Atticus is older in the book than I recalled him. (Maybe because Gregory Peck is so handsome and indelible.) He's approaching 50 during the summer when Dill came to visit. I like thinking of him as more mature. It makes his wisdom feel more hardwon than inherent.
2. What did you recently finish reading? Mrs. McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie. Mrs. McGinty cleaned houses in the small town of Broadhinny. Everyone knew her on sight, but no bothered to learn much about her. In fact, the only time the village paid attention to her was when her body was found, bludgeoned. There was a trial, and Mrs. McGinty's very unsympathetic boarder was found guilty, based on a preponderance of evidence.
Too much evidence. The case was too neat, too easy. This bothered the superintendent who "solved" it. He asked his friend, Hercule Poirot, to investigate the closed case. Just to make sure an innocent man won't be hanged.
I enjoyed this book. It was a satisfying mystery but even more, it was funny and sharp in its observations of village life. It also marked my introduction to Ariadne Oliver, a successful mystery writer whose path has crossed with Poirot's in the past. I loved Oliver's exasperation with Sven Hjerson, the detective she created and who made her famous. Sven is an eccentric, fussy Finn, and Mrs. Oliver is sorry she ever imagined him. Clearly, Agatha Christie is telling us she was well over Hercule Poriot long before we ever were.
3. What will read next? A biography, I bet.