Monthly Archives: August 2006

Vacation reading: hits and misses

One of the principal joys of vacation for me is time for reading, even in the midst of lots of outdoor activity.

I didn’t keep a systematic list, but my favorite discovery of the last two weeks was the first of Boris Akunin’s Erast Fandorin mysteries, The Winter Queen. It’s almost like finding a new nineteenth century Russian novelist, except the youthful Akunin is apparently still writing new Fandorin books. I read The Winter Queen just after finishing Alan Furst’s The Foreign Correspondent. It’s a wonderful evocation of the conspiracy-ridden world of Italian anti-fascists in Paris on the eve of World War Two.

The other great joy was reading The Princess Bride, following numerous references by Brad DeLong. If William Goldman’s introduction is to be believed, I’m the first person to read the book who had not seen the film. That, too, has now been remedied. I’ll try to not let “Inconceivable!” and “I don’t think that word means what you think it means” creep into my writing too much.

The one definite miss of my vacation was a renewed attempt to find out what many people I respect find in PG Wodehouse. Too relentlessly clever and arch for me. I still don’t get it.

Fitting in a phone box

Max Hastings: “In less credulous Britain one could nowadays fit into an old-fashioned telephone box those who believe anything Bush or Tony Blair says about foreign policy. Many of us are consumed with frustration. We know that we face a real threat from Muslim fundamentalists, and that we are unlikely to begin to defeat this until we see it for what it is: something infinitely more complex, diffuse and nuanced than the US president wishes to suppose.”

Down the river

Any regular readers have probably noticed that Davos Newbies is on something of a hiatus, as the vogue term seems to have it. We’re on our summer family vacation in the Sierras, not totally unconnected, but I’m not cranking up the laptop all that often.

We’ve been fortunate in coming to Truckee for a number of years now, but today was the first time we actually went on the Truckee River. I’d always thought it flowed down from Truckee to Lake Tahoe, but it turns out it flows down from Lake Tahoe to Truckee. My wife told me not to advertise my ignorance.

Still, if you have a half day up near Lake Tahoe a few hours floating down the Truckee River is hard to beat.