In my quest to know the Evanston Public Library collection as deeply and as well as any person can, I find a lot of interesting books. These are not necessarily books that have circulated particularly well, mind you. Rather, they’re titles that have caught my eye for one reason or another. So for your reading pleasure . . .
Leon Garfield was one of those British authors the Yanks don’t tend to remember as well as they might. He wrote novels for adults and children and managed to reproduce the tone and style of the great Victorian novels with an admirable aplomb. So I was just delighted when I found that he’d taken it upon himself to finish (as it were) Charles Dickens’ great unfinished mystery. If you are unfamiliar with the story then I will direct you to the musical version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, recently revived, and very fun and funny. The book is somber in comparison (we are talking later Dickens, after all) but still has its moments. And hey, if Garfield’s solution to the crime doesn’t strike you as inspired, I highly recommend The D. Case in which all the great detectives of literary history come together to solve the mystery.
I freely admit, and without reservation, that this might be the kind of thing that only appeals to me. Nonetheless, when I saw it sitting there on the shelf, just the smallest, tiniest, slimmest little book that ever you did see, it was love at first sight. And you know what? It’s a hoot! It really and truly is. I’m continually fascinated by those books that are written about historical moment while those moments are happening. They have not yet achieved any kind of distance from the material so their perspective, while narrow, is invaluable. Now I’d recently finished reading Steve Sheinkin’s remarkable encapsulation of Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers in Most Dangerous so this proved to be an ideal literary companion. It’s very funny, insightful, and the added bonus of the inclusion of Doonesbury comics (some you’ll remember from syndication and some that were included here for the first time, never to be seen again) is a bonus.
In 1945 a 30-year-old playwright by the name of Arthur Miller penned a novel. And for whatever reason, here at Evanston Public Library we appear to have an original edition. In fact, if you flip to the back inside cover you’ll see a photo of a very young Miller (no glasses in sight) with scant attention paid to his plays. It sorta cute. The book is still in print thanks to a William H. Macy film version a couple of years ago. The cover, needless to say, has changed a tad over the years.
And speaking of author photos, I have a mission for you. Go to the stacks. Find Kurt Jose Ayau’s novel The Brick Murder: A Tragedy and Other Stories. Now flip to the back of the book at check out the author photo there.