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18 November 2012

'The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack' by Mark Hodder

"Exciting, clever, fun, fast paced and inventive"

Weird this.  BPR found this book and thought I would like it.  I started it and then stopped.  I was distracted by other books.  I think.  I picked it up again a week ago and did not put it down.  It was exciting, clever, fun, fast paced and inventive.  A good, entertaining read.  Why then did I put it down?

I think I have mentioned before that Melville was one of the most boring authors I was obliged to read in university.  I did not want to know the provenance of every item a protagonist picked up.  Flash forward a few years later and I need to read in peace (i.e. an escape), because of a (finally) napping baby but I have nothing to read.  'Moby Dick' is on the shelf.  Inward groan, but I pick it up.  I laugh and laugh.  The whole scene at the sailors inn and the decision to sleep or not to sleep with the harpooner is one of my favorite literary scenes.  I was so impressed with the book that after I finished it I researched sperm whales as well as modern fishing and whaling.  Super cool, I understood the book, finally captured a sense of Captain Ahab as he is envisioned by his author and I laughed.  Great book, naturally a classic... so why did I not like it before?

One of my theories is that books come to me when I am ready to read them.  By ready I mean mood, experience, timing... you know, life.  Some books are life changing.  'The Book of Tea' by Okakura comes to mind.  Other books are humorous if you get the joke, Terry Pratchett needed a couple of attempts before it clicked.  'The Strange Affair of Spring-heeled Jack' has a great deal of action as well as a complicated plot in an unfamiliar/should be familiar setting.  Two issues come to mind when I think about last week.  First, it was a quiet week.  I had the time to concentrate and stretch out on the sofa.  Second, because it was such a quiet week I needed some excitement, if only vicarious.  Otherwise, my life outlook has not changed so much in the six months since BPR gave me the book.  What I mean is that Melville and Pratchett and several others were reintroduced to me after I had had some life altering experiences.  Okakura was a life altering experience.

Other readers of my acquaintace shrug their shoulders and say "I was not in the mood" or more often, "the book didn't grab me".  I disagree.  It is not the wrong book, it is the wrong person (or state of mind) for that book.  Books, well written books, are always ready for an audience.  Well written books can be reread.  It is often the audience that is not ready for a book.  This theory has compelled me to pick up books that I have put down, sometimes years later.  I am often very glad I did.  Mark Hodder has done a wonderful job.  I look forward to meeting him again.

Mark Hodder
ISBN: 9781906727208

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