Nothing like having everything cancelled for snow, then waking up to…not much snow. And nothing really falling. However, the weather radar informs me it’s just a pause, and the real walloping will come in a couple hours. Whatever. I have nowhere to be, a stocked pantry, and am thinking…lentil soup. Maybe some apple crisp. Maybe an apple cake. Depends.
We went to the Strand bookstore in New York, of course, and browsing the stacks made me miss the days when every city of any size had an independent bookstore, or just a bookstore, period. It was Little Professor for me, growing up, then a host of others. Borders was wonderful in Ann Arbor, and even Barnes & Noble fit the bill. All gone now, another casualty of the internet. There’s a home-furnishings store where my local Borders was, and B&N’s space here is now a grocery for orthorexic eaters, which is to say the vitamin aisle is as long as any other, and a jar of organic mayonnaise — the only kind available — costs $6.
It’s a small jar, too.
Alan bought a book at the Strand called “Cocktail Codex” — he’s become quite the bartender in his retirement — and spent a chunk of yesterday paging through it, before looking up and saying, “Apparently I need a centrifuge.” Ha ha, he’s not buying a centrifuge on my watch, but come summer, there may be some interesting fruit syrups and infusions on offer at Alan’s bar. But nothing requiring a centrifuge, I can assure you of that. Many of these drinks are garnished with a dehydrated slice of fruit, but we’re not adding a dehydrator to the arsenal, either.
Me, I bought a collection of horror/fantasy/sci-fi-adjacent short stories co-edited by Neil Gaiman. This is a genre I’ve avoided most of my life, with a few exceptions, one of them Neil Gaiman, although I stop well short of total fangirl status. His ideas about gods, lower-case, are interesting, but ultimately I prefer reality. The story collection is about what you’d expect from a story collection — uneven. Bright spots, less-bright spots.
That seems to be the theme of the week so far, innit? Expect something, get less, shrug.
At least it was better than “August Snow,” which I picked up at a Friends of the Library $1 sale and almost immediately soured on. It’s the first of a crime series set in Detroit, highly praised, now in its third volume and already sold to Hollywood. Annnnddd? I kinda hated it. For one thing, I’m tired of the standard setup for these things: A hero who is somehow freed from having to work a regular job ($12 million lawsuit settlement from the city, in this case), leaving him time and cash to have adventures. But he’s special, an ex-cop or ex-soldier, or ex-SPECIAL FORCES or some other macho hitch, which gives him a facility with weapons and a dead-eye aim. Introduced to this character, you just know he’ll meet bad guys and overcome them with his basic decency and dead-eye aim, but the pleasure is in the execution, and by the time this one wheezed to an ending, I was done.
But why did I sour on it in just the first pages? The author did not respect local geography, and this brings up a question for you readers of fiction: How important is this to you? I was brought up short when, as the character drives down East Jefferson out of downtown and headed for Grosse Pointe, he passes the Kronk Gym. Wait, what? The Kronk is — was — on the west side, and was always on the west side. Detroit is a very east side/west side town, and relocating one of its well-known institutions to another part of town, just to make a picturesque drive more so, strikes me as heresy, or at the very least, distracting. I mean, why not move the RenCen to Southfield while you’re at it.
Now. I know some people differ on this. To me, if you’re going to set your story in a city, and make that city’s history and landscape part of its fabric, you owe your readers some authenticity. Some license is granted; Jeffrey Eugenides invoked the name of a real Grosse Pointe street (Middlesex) and put a fictional house on it, in his novel of the same name. Laura Lippman created a small, fictional pocket of a real Baltimore neighborhood for her main character to live. This doesn’t bother me. In “August Snow,” the author invents a whole new Grosse Pointe (GP Estates) and even that didn’t bother me (although it looked, based on the description in my mind’s eye, more like Bloomfield Hills), but when he fictionally decreed that the entire community somehow sits on the Detroit River? Sorry, I’m out.
Also, the typos, oy the typos. Barack Obama’s name is misspelled, and that’s all I’ll say about that. Also, when the main character rousts a drug dealer and finds “a couple dime bags of weed” in his pocket, which actually made me guffaw.
OK, then. Time to put on the sneakers and have a little bike ride in the prison gym, i.e. the basement. Happy snow day to all who celebrate. Consider a slow-simmering soup for dinner tonight.