SURVIVOR: chronic city (jonathan lethem)*
CHALLENGER: the spellmans strike again (lisa lutz)

philosophers club

i spotted a couple of lisa lutz's spellman files "comic crime" novels on our friend amos's (minimalist, largely nonfiction) bookshelf this past new year's eve. what's a thirty-year-old attorney doing with books about a wacky lady detective? "they're fun," he said, "and i like reading about san francisco." he's right: lutz has a fine ear for banter,** and her characters (a dysfunctional family of private eyes and the northern californians they harass) are entertaining, if not always emotionally plausible.*** (as lutz put it in an interview, "If my book gets someone through a dreadful plane ride, then I've done my job.") lutz and her girl sleuth, isabel, enjoy numbering and transcribing things even more than i do: in this fourth and final spellman-installment alone, she catalogues (and often tapes) family camping trips, (men who will be) ex-boyfriends, stakeouts, phone calls from florida, "mandatory lawyer dates," "lost wednesdays," and so on. the repetition is pretty charming, except when isabel flogs the three previous novels in the footnotes (as either a literary or a marketing tool, clunk). it's also useful, for while i've yet to bring one of lutz's books on a plane (i've read three in all; i think i missed revenge of the spellmans, the previous installment), they're stop-and-start subway commute magic, and i'm consistently pleased when they turn up among our pre-publication reader's proofs at the office. lutz doesn't quite nail the private eye's final walk into the sunset (totally possible in a tragicomic setting, a la veronica mars), but she's got her walk and her talk well in hand.

VICTOR: chronic city. i'd rather have a beer with lutz, but lethem's is the title i'd rather have in hardcover.

imaginary reading group discussion questions

01 seriously, though. would you drink coffee and eat pineapple at the same time?

02 what was your last in-flight read?

03 isabel mentions doctor who often and passionately enough that i feel like i should see what she's going on about. are you a fan? what am i missing?

*previous battle here.

**her dialogue is quite solid as a general proposition, actually: lutz was a screenwriter (albeit a thwarted one) in a previous professional life, and it shows.

***or gustatorially plausible: at one point, they sat around consuming coffee and fresh pineapple together. it pains me to think about how unholy that would taste.


LPC said...

01 Coffee and pineapple could be OK on a veranda in Hawaii. Except actually I get migraines from coffee so don't drink it at all any more. Would just do pineapple.
02 Um, US Weekly. And what I remember as sdfjado vijo aei (I take Xanax to fly)
03 I loved Doctor Who. The old one. From the 1960's, that I watched the year we lived in London when I was 11.

kidchamp said...

i adore pineapple, but something about the competing acidities if you had it with black coffee (or, o god, coffee with milk) just makes me shiver. re: xanax, joe has a similar reaction to ambien; he was once given an in-flight salad shortly after taking one and exclaimed with alarm, "what are these strange leaves?!"

Amanda said...

01 No
02 P&P (It's been F&Z for as long as I can remember, but Salinger just felt wrong on a London-bound flight.)
03 Yes

jacob said...

01 The only thing worse than that combination is that combination right after brushing your teeth.

02 AS Byatt's The Children's Book, which I picked up in paperback in London.

03 I'm in the same boat as you - don't know it, but intrigued by other commenters' enthusiasm for it.

Milkmaid's dumb friend said...

02: I like reading something I’ve read before, and something with a thesis. Last flight it was the reviews in Dale Peck’s Hatchet Jobs. Why not accept an invitation to be gathered there that day to witness the wedding of piquant criticism and waggish cruelty? (Spoiler: shotgun wedding, y’all- she’s pregnant with hilarity.) He even arouses sympathy for his, uh, combative approach by characterizing himself as a sort of mother hen of the novel, because which of us doesn’t love a mother hen (or isn’t one ourselves about something or another)? Arguments keep my attention at any rate when I’m white-knuckling it from OH GOD DID THE WING JUST FALL OFF!?!... DID THE… we haven’t taxied to the tarmac yet? LPC, please pass the Xanax.
03: Costello: Well then who’s The Doctor?
Abbott: Yes.
Costello: I mean the fellow’s name... the protagonist… The Doctor… The character exploring…
Abbott: Who is The Doctor!
"…to point out, for example, that Lou Costello is mistaking the proper name “Who” for the interrogative pronoun “who,” etc." -DFW

kidchamp said...

that makes sense to me, MDF: i'd probably have the same sort of fun with pauline kael's state of the art. having a hard time with rereads lately, though, as thanatophobia apparently presents in me as fear-of-not-making-it-through-my-reading-list.

you folks and your fear of flying shock me, i confess: i have trouble with the kraken, nipples, presbyterians,* any number of things, really, but in flight i'm the buddha. never really thought to worry about it.

*the people, that is. the cocktails are marvelous.