I started an interesting book last night called Notes from a Coma, by Mike McCormack. Mike is an Irish writer and the novel is set in that country. I see from the copyright data that Notes was first published in 2005 (perhaps in Ireland or the U.K.), but it is being published in the U.S. next month as a "Soho Paperback Original."
The story concerns an Irish farmer who goes to Romania and "buys" a two-year-old boy from a crowded orphanage. I'm guessing that things do not go all that well for the young man in Ireland, however. If that were not so, JJ O'Malley would not have volunteered for an experimental program to look at the feasibility of giving criminals the option of being placed into a deep coma rather than suffering the day-to-day boredom of incarceration.
I am only 32 pages into the book, but it appears that the volunteers are hooked up to monitors and, via the Internet, become national celebrities. Strange and futuristic, this one already has me hooked.
Around lunch time I finally made it out to a bookstore I discovered on the Internet last month, a place called Good Books in the Woods (and that is sort of where it really is). This used-book bookshop is a treat for book lovers, especially those who collect. It reminds me of a couple of Houston-area stores I used to visit regularly before they disappeared from the face of the earth. It is filled with several thousand books (most of them in hardcover), and to my great delight, it allocates substantial shelf-space to quality modern first editions.
Sadly, there does not seem to be much foot-traffic through the store (especially for a Saturday) because, even though it is only a quarter mile of an interstate feeder road, it is tucked completely out of sight inside what is predominately a residential area. Good Books in the Woods offers residents of North Houston, The Woodlands, and surrounding towns a great alternative to driving into the city for books (and to the local mall's Barnes & Noble).
Come on, Houston, let's support these guys before we end up losing them, too.
Speaking of Barnes & Noble, I have to say that I was happily surprised this morning to find some of the chairs back in place. My favorite B&N has refit an upstairs corner of the store into the reading area it used to be. There is even one little table there for anyone wanting to take advantage of the store's WiFi without sitting in the coffee bar among all the giggling teenage girls. I have to tell you this made my day. Can B&N management really be listening to customer feedback for a change? Even the Nook area in this store seems to have shrunk a little.
And, icing on the Barnes & Noble cake, I found a bargain-table book by Robert Hicks I didn't know existed. Hicks is the author of one of my favorite Civil War novels, The Widow of the South. This 2009 novel, A Separate Country, is set in post-war New Orleans and features Confederate general John Bell Hood, one of the more controversial officers on either side of that terrible war.
And, finally, I took a minute from my browsing to jot down a quote from Marilynne Robinson's When I Was a Child I Read Books:
"Over the years I have collected so many books that, in the aggregate, they can fairly be called a library. I don't know what percentage of them I have read. Increasingly I wonder how many of them I ever will read. This has done nothing to dampen my pleasure in acquiring more books. But it has caused me to ponder the meaning they have for me, and the fact that to me they epitomize one great aspect of the goodness of life."Exactly.