20 April, 2005
Alexander McCall Smith
I am hooked. Alexander McCall Smith is a very amiable, very funny man. A friend and I went to hear him speak, and have him sign some books last night at the Arts and Letters series in the city. In the above book, he pokes fun at professorial types, which may lead one to think that he himself is an arrogant man. After watching and hearing him, I think he just does not take himself or intelligence too seriously; he pokes fun at himself, and perhaps colleagues he has known.
After telling us a bit about the history of his characters and how he writes certain people into his books, he read to us from one of the Professor Dr. von Igelfeld books, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. I had not laughed so much and so hard in one evening in quite some time. It was a terrific reminder to me that life has been (or "I" have been) rather serious of late, and that I need to seize opportunities to laugh more often.
The author was born in Zimbabwe and educated in Scotland. He now lives in Edinburgh with his family.
Last night, he was dressed in his kilt and suit coat, with a vivid-green tie! What drew me to like him most was his involvement in and attitude toward music. I was raised with vocal and instrumental music of all sorts since birth. I played the flute from fourth grade on and switched to bassoon in high school and the early years of college.
He plays the bassoon and his wife plays the flute in a group called the RTO (aka the "Really Terrible Orchestra")!! He shared that he doubts whether he should say that he can really play the bassoon at all, because he has some trouble with any of the high notes (above D, lol). He tells of how he thought about redesigning the instrument, to help him achieve more success. He mentioned trying to play without the top piece on, to which I could relate. I had done the same back in 1982 when travelling on the road and needing to practice an intro of five mellow, stirring, notes for a solo(some of them high notes) for our school's chamber orchestra competition. In order to practice and break in the new reed I'd just bought, I had to play in the car on the two hour road trip, and I had to remove the top of the bassoon to fit in the old station wagon! It's probably only funny if you'd been there, or have ever wanted to make such adjustments "on the fly" in order to accomplish a goal :-).
I purchased book number six, In The Company of Cheerful Ladies, the American edition was just launched yesterday, in fact. I also bought the three Professor Dr. von Igelfeld series for my husband, but I intend to read them first! Now that I know the author's voice, I will hear him when I read them.
One final note, for any who are wondering, is that he is not the reader on the audio versions of his books. A woman reads The Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. Mr. Smith doesn't like to listen to any of the audio books completely, although he highly approves of the readers of his audio books. He just doesn't want their voice to somehow mess with the "voice" or the "lack thereof" that he himself writes with as he puts the stories on paper. I thought that was an interesting detail to note. I can understand how that could happen.
If any of you have a chance to hear this author, or go to a booksigning, I highly recommend that you make the effort, as it is truly worth it!