When trying to figure out what to read next from my shelves, I have come upon a master plan. I am going to alphabetize my books in somewhat of a Deanna-inspired Dewey system. Canadian books are gathered together, as are Nonfiction, American, British, International, 1001 Books titles, and Lifestyle. I know "nonfiction" covers a wide, wide, wide selection of titles, it's just easier than subdividing them even further. I'm also going to start a new section called "Writing" (books about writing, dictionaries, etc but I've already read all of those -- and unless people give me more of them, that section won't increase). This might take me a while but I bought the baby an activity mat yesterday (Baby Einstein's 'Baby Neptune') and he played on it for 45 minutes last night when he was exhausted, which means I might get even more time when he's awake and active! Hello more writing time! Then I think I'll start reading one from each section in their alphabetical order and go from there. I've been having a hard time choosing books, standing in front of my shelves for hours, baby on my shoulder, and I need to be quick and decisive these days. My brain is mushy enough.
Annnywaaay. Long, rambling digression aside, this is why when In the Company of Cheerful Ladies fell behind the couch and I seriously DID NOT have the energy to get it before bed, I picked up Howard Akler's completely riveting The City Man before bed the other day. It was one of those nights where I didn't sleep either so it meant I read the whole book in pretty much one sitting -- it's a swift, stylized 150-odd pages, so conducive to a night where your meds are keeping you up and you have to feed the baby anyway.
The novel is told in vignettes, or what I'd call micro fiction, short paragraphs that create the sense of a novel because they are all ultimately related but that could be read almost separately because of their coherence and beauty. Akler's created a world within these pages of Depression-era Toronto where pickpockets embroil themselves in the "whiz", grift at Union Station, smoke like fiends, and where one post-treatment (for "exhaustion" as we'd say in this day and age) reporter named Eli chases and then breaks the story. Of course, there's a love story, and pool halls, and a great Dame of a housemother -- in all the book feels like a great period film, complete with humour and heightened vocabulary.
Akler must have done a tonne of research, but that's not what I liked the most about the book. I mean, sure, the atmosphere is effective, the story sharp, but he writes clean, clean, clean prose -- and I admire that among all else. In a way, this book felt a little like that terrifically underrated George Clooney movie, Leatherheads . In full disclosure mode, Akler is a friend of one my closest girlfriends, and I've met him socially over the last few years, I'm just sorry that it took me this long to read his novel. I know he's working on another, and the moment it's out -- I'll be on it.
Another for the 2011 Off the Shelf Challenge.