However, this last Christmas presented a problem I have not had before. After reading a present I just did not want to part with it. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon is about an elderly man who moves even more slowly than I do, a young boy and the boy’s parrot.
It is not clear exactly what the man did in his working life. He refers to solving puzzles, considering anomalies. But if the story had taken place in the United State one might infer he worked for the CIA. He is treated with respect when the man from London comes to call because of the numbers the parrot has been heard reciting.
The boy is a refugee during WW II from Germany, talks not at all and the parrot is his comfort and link to his family. The parrot does talk, recites numbers, letters and poetry, and tells us part of the story.
The parrot is abducted because of what it is felt he knows. It is unclear whether the parrot actually knows anything of value. But the parrot is determined not to say what the abductor wants to hear, repeating the numbers and letters only in the dead of the night while the man sleeps.
The story revolves around the search for the parrot but it is also a meditation on growing old (on the part of the elderly man) and the disappointments of life (on the part of the couple that take in the young boy.) It is a satisfactory search and a satisfying story.
Katherine Von Wald, Coordinator, Iowa Center for the Book
Books You May Have Missed: "The Uncommon Reader"
Every book lover should read The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
(New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007; also available as an audio
book). It’s a delightfully charming little novella about reading.
Sounds boring? Well, it’s not. In addition to its charm, it’s also very
funny; you won’t guffaw, but you will keep smiling as you read.
the story, the Queen of England by happenstance becomes an avid reader,
mentored at first by a common houseboy. Her reading transforms her
life. Her advisers and courtesans, of course, fret that she’s wasting
her time on frivolous nonsense and ignoring her bureaucratic duties.
But she is so caught up in the joys of reading that she ignores them.
we follow the Queen through her adventures in reading, we are exposed
to lots of wise, but very mundane, observations about the reasons for
reading and the consequences of doing so. So even as we are highly
entertained, we are also nudged to think more carefully—but not at all
academically—about why we read. I only wish that I had taken a cue from
the practice the Queen developed of reading with a notebook at her
side, so that I could have recorded some of her wise and witty
observations. Eventually, her life of reading is supplemented, as it
well should be, by a life of writing.
Spend a few hours with this charming book. You’ll be glad you did.