Tony Hillerman writes a predictably solid mystery. With a world that lives and breathes and is very different from the green, moist Pacific Northwest that I consider home. A month or so ago I started at the beginning of the Navajo series with The Blessing Way and am now up to Coyote Waits a little more than half way through. These are my chocolate chip cookies of the moment. I read an hour or so in the evening. (Sadly these are not available as audiobooks.)
Speaking of audiobooks. Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age is accompanying me and the dog on our morning walks. Not my favorite Stephenson. It moves too slowly. Which is an odd thing to say about a Stephenson, considering that he is the master of the extended expository aside. But here we’re not talking about asides we’re talking about pieces of the narrative that bog along without much happening. I don’t feel much for the little girl Nell which isn’t helping the story hold my attention. I find Miranda and the other adults much more interesting. Nonetheless a fine bit of a story to accompany me on the daily ramble as the weather grows increasingly crisp (or lately foggy.)
Speaking of dogs. I’ve just finished Cat Warren’s What the Dog Knows. All of the scent training and nosework people I know are reading this right now.
This is a clear-eyed look into the world of working dogs. Not sugar-coated or filtered through a need to make the dog, Solo, a hero. Warren is honest about the sometimes difficult nature of the highly driven working dogs and about the possibilities, limitations and unknowns of the use of scent detection dogs. Her account of their early training sessions will make anyone who is honest enough to remember their first couple of sessions with any sort of scenting dog wince in empathy. (I still struggle to keep my damned hands from fidgeting.)
There are stories of both their successes and failures. Solidly academic — which may make you a little crazy as she fact checks some of the most cherished myths about dogs’ noses and their ability to discriminate scents. But you’ll also learn about dogs’ roles in the death rites of ancient civilizations, an attempt to train vultures to search for cadavers, and some odd moments from the history of military dogs. There are extensive notes at the end of the book if you want to dig into the back ground information for yourself.
Ordinary Genius Kim Addonizio who is best known perhaps for her poem What do Women Want. This book is a guide to making poetry. So what? There are dozens of books about making poetry, why should you read this book rather than one of the other poetry books out there?
Because there are lots of sharp edges in this particular knife drawer. And not many lace doilies. Lots of exercises that explore words, phrases, and meanings that are revealing not just for poets but for anyone who works with words. The exercises that prompt you to dissect and repurpose clichés are worth the price of entry.