Friday, July 25, 2014

Cephalopod Coffeehouse July 2014

The last Friday of every month is the designated meeting date for Armchair Squid's Cephalopod Coffeehouse.

After finally finishing the Indiespensible Experiment early in the month, I moved on to a couple of my favorite writers: J.K. Rowling and Javier Marias.  Instant improvement of literary spirits!  Rowling you may have heard of, and hopefully you know she writes as Robert Galbraith these days and with The Silkworm has released her second Cormoran Strike mystery.  Marias is responsible for the genius Your Face Tomorrow trilogy, and The Infatuations is his latest book, released last fall.  (It's actually been read by a club member previously!)

I wouldn't call either effort the best from their respective authors, but I soundly enjoyed both.

I'm settling in nicely with the Galbraith/Strike phase of Rowling's career.  I'm glad she's found a new story to tell, one that she's eager to explore.  The main character is kind of like a real world version of Harry Potter's Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody, half a leg blown off in adventures prior to when we first meet him but still soldiering on.  Strike's past is as important as his present, and not just his past past but the effect of his last case, The Cuckoo's Calling.  I love that.  I love that Rowling can so easily spin a fascinating mythology and have it so relevant to a series of books.  This more human approach is no less involving than a wizarding world.  Strike's assistant Robin is equally intriguing, and their relationship continues to evolve, although calling it a relationship may be jumping the gun a bit.  Their working relationship.  But clearly theirs is a story that will also continue as the series continues.

Much of the book is clearly a pastiche on Rowling's experiences and observations after Harry Potter.  The mystery this time involves a writer who's murdered after writing a chilling parody of his life and the personalities of those around him who hardly appreciated such attention.

Since Rowling has basically been writing mysteries from the start, the concept comes naturally to her best tendencies.  If you enjoyed reading her in the past, you'll love doing so again.

In a lot of ways, meanwhile, Infatuations is Marias condensing Your Face Tomorrow into a single volume and ramping up the philosophy of his perspective.  In fact, the whole thing's a cerebral exercise, getting into the main character's head as she analyzes her experiences tracking the results of discovering a man she used to see every day has been murdered.  Marias is a writer who appreciates his characters thinking things over, as often in conversation as not.  This is far from a typical read.  It's Italo Calvino for the modern age, although I like Marias better.  It's not easy reading even for someone prepared to enjoy something like this, but it's rewarding in every sense with enough patience.  This is an author in full control of his powers, and that is always exciting to see.  I love knowing that I'm reading something that only that writer could have accomplished, that the writer dared to attempt such a thing, not an experiment but a full-blown case of literary bravado.  And that's what The Infatuations is.

And hopefully it'll get more people to read his even better and more important work, Your Face Tomorrow.


  1. I've been curious about Rowling's more recent works. I'll have to check that series out.

  2. Hey! Thanks for sharing. I've considered dipping into Rowling's new work--but haven't just yet. A good reminder to get cracking!

    1. That's the one trick about writing under a different name. It's easy to forget!

  3. Glad to see you're finding more satisfying reads. I haven't delved into Rowling's newer stuff either. Perhaps I should.

  4. I've read a number of reviews that state Rowling as Galbraith isn't very good. Maybe she simply needs some time to settle in. As she wrote the HP books, she got better and better.


    1. I think that as far as that goes, it's to go with expectations. There will be readers who think she can never top Harry Potter. And because she isn't tackling anything nearly as ambitious, these readers think they're automatically right. But everything I've read post-Potter has been excellent.


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