Just got back from a trip abroad and saw the cramped, diminutive belly of books that is Shakespeare and Co. (which had Martin Amis, Will Self, etc. coming for a Festival of sorts, wowwee) as well as a publisher's street fair in Porto (50+ stalls)...really, a whole wild world of books. Fantastic stuff, but overwhelming too: There's Too Many Damned Books !
As always, I found traveling is one of the best times to read, or at any rate one of the most productive. The train rides. The flights. Monolingual television sets. The best of what I read was:
Roddy Doyle's The Dead Republic (Viking, $21.56, hc) -- Doyle's last novel novel of the Henry Star Trilogy, The Dead Republic works as a triptych of episodes, beginning with Henry Star (former IRA hitman) working with director Henry Ford to turn his life into a movie and ending with our protagonist's return to his homeland, politics, and his lost wife as he finds old age. Throughout the journey, the book works to give a historical survey of Ireland and the differing states of Irish politics. For the reader, this is a wonderful, if not revelatory aspect of the book. Knowledge of Cumman na mban, 1917, the IRA, Sinn Feinn, and so on, will strike most readers illuminatingly, and certainly fail to invoke thoughts of Red Sox games, Guiness, and Leprechauns. (No doubt this is a positive development concerning perceptions of the Eire.) On top of the historical blanket lays the attractive story of Henry Star, hitman, scriptwriter, janitor extraordinaire. Largely, it works to embolden the contours of the novel's historical aspect, and does so in good style. READ IT!