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Front Page - Friday, August 12, 2016

A summer of ingestion – Part 2

I Swear

Vic Fleming

It’s been a summer of ingestion – not indigestion. I’ve read, I’ve watched. Last week I wrote about movies. This week the topic is books.

Not long ago I reviewed Chris Bachelder’s “The Throwback Special” (2015). So, you know I liked that novel about 22 guys meeting annually to re-enact one football play. But let me give you another memorable quote from it: “Chad chewed on the inside of his lip, considering whether or not to tell the story about the nest of mice in his dishwasher.”

I re-read and wrote about “A Prayer for Owen Meany” (1989), John Irving’s classic that begins “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice.” 

I am doomed to remember that line in perpetuity. Here’s another memorable quote: “If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.”

I read “Orphan Train,” Christina Baker Kline’s 2014 novel that spent 90 weeks as a New York Times Best Seller. I learned that, in the early 1900s, abandoned, destitute kids were collected from East Coast cities and transported to the Midwest, where families were encouraged to adopt them.

Vivian Daly, an Irish immigrant, was one of these children. As a 90-something-year-old resident of modern-day Maine, Vivian encounters Molly, a 17-year-old who’s been ordered to do community service for stealing a used book. They have more in common than either would have thought. Quote: “[H]eaven is … a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on.”

In “The Dog” (2014), a collection of short stories by Jack Livings, all the tales are set in modern-day China. I figured I’d get halfway through the first story and then not see the book again until finding it next year in a dark closet. Not! I found in each story something that I identified with. 

In the title story, a young married couple are struggling to make it when the husband invests in ownership of a race dog. The dog is doing well when the city suddenly bans dog racing. What’s a guy to do? Have a party and eat the dog? Memorable quote: “[N]ot everything you think is worth saying out loud.”

In another story, “Mountain of Swords, Sea of Fire,” a respected journalist is to be feted on the occasion of his retirement. A colleague with a lesser reputation is asked to make a tribute speech at the party. This makes for a long day, involving tension among co-workers, an argument with the boss, and a painful reflection on his career.

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” (2015) bore the original Swedish title “Det som inte dodar oss” (“That which does not kill us”). It’s book 4 in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series. Swedish journalist David Lagercrantz does a creditable job taking over for Larsson, who died in 2004. That is, I assume Lagercrantz’s work is good, because it emerges perfectly readable when translated by George Goulding.

At any rate, genius hacker Lisbeth Salander is back, as is investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. They survive the authorship transition intact. 

Plotwise, a prominent artificial intelligence expert gets murdered. And those who investigate find themselves “ensnared in global intrigue.” That includes Swedish security agents, Russian mobsters, Silicon Valley industrial spies and more. 

I liked it. And I read somewhere that a movie deal is in the works.