Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blue Moon

I just realized that the full moon tonight is a blue moon (the second full moon occurring in the same calendar month), so, you know, anything that only happens once in a blue moon could, theoretically, have happened today! (Like me writing a journal entry!)

Blogger has made a change to their text editor where "Now Blogger saves your drafts automatically!" (Exclamation point theirs.) So every couple of minutes it saves, and if you happen to be typing HTML, and it catches you in the middle of typing a tag, you'll get a n excited error message on the order of, "Your HTML cannot be accepted due to a broken tag!" You would think they would have taken that into consideration.

I've discovered over the last couple of years that one of the things that contributes to my overall feeling of happiness or unhappiness is whether or not I have a good book that I'm reading, and a good audio book to listen to in the car. Sometimes I do get into moods where I just want to listen to music and sing along while I drive to work, but I'm seldom in that kind of a mood on the way home; the drive home really needs an audio book.

Right now I'm reading The Highly Effective Detective, by Richard Yancey. I picked it up off the "new books" shelf at the library a couple of weeks ago, and just started it last night. It's about a man who receives a small inheritance when his mother dies, and uses the money to realize his life-long dream of becoming a private detective.

He rents an office, buys furniture, and hires a coffee shop waitress as his secretary, then sits back and waits for the clients to show up. One finally does -- a man who witnessed a hit-and-run accident where a big SUV ran over a family of goslings. He takes the case seriously, and (according to the jacket copy) it turns out to be a bigger case than he counted on. I'm not very far into it, but I'm really enjoying it so far.

In some ways, it reminds me of the last audio book I listened to, Traveler, by Ron McLarty. Mr. McLarty reads the book himself. Normally I stay away from books read by their authors, but McLarty is a character actor, and a wonderful reader. I listened to his first book, The Memory of Running, a few months ago, and it was just wonderful.

McLarty has a knack for creating the "everyman" character; it's almost like nothing much really happens in the books, but they're such wonderful character studies that you really don't notice. This one did have a mystery in it. It's about a New York smalltime actor/sometime bartender who gets a call that an old childhood friend has died. He goes back to his hometown and talks with old friends, visits his childhood haunts, and reminisces. Along the way he discovers that his friend's death wasn't entirely natural, and he becomes a sort of detective, eventually finding out the truth.

The title, "Traveler," refers to a bullet that had been lodged in his friend for about forty years; it also, I think, refers to the protagonist's journey back to his hometown and, ultimately, to his childhood.

Both books are excellent. "The Memory of Running" is also about a man dealing with the death of a loved one. In this story, the parents of an overweight, chainsmoking factory worker are killed in an automobile accident, and he finds out that his mentally ill sister has also died, in California. He decides, on the spur of the moment, to ride a bicycle across the country to claim her body and find out what happened to her.

There are flashbacks in this book as well, to his childhood--I don't normally like that kind of thing, but here it's done so effortlessly that I enjoyed it tremendously. McLarty's characters were referred to in a review as "big hearted, warm, and mournful," and that's a pretty apt description. More or less a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people who, in some ways, transcend that ordinariness and become larger than life.

The book I'm listening to now is John Sandford's latest, Invisible Prey. I always enjoy Richard Ferrone's reading of Sandford's work, and I expect to enjoy this one over the next week or so. It's one of a long series, and while I read several of the first ones, I think I've listened to all of them. I find that I actually pick up a lot more of a book when I listen to it. I tend to skim, I think, when I read, so a lot of times I'll buy or rent an audio book even if I've already read the book. It's an entirely different experience.

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