Ah, yes, I was talking about Luigi Ricci. Well, he studied music and started composing. The first crap he wrote – oh, I’m sorry, that just slipped out – anyway, his first compositions, for whatever reason, were very successful. Theatres all over Italy wanted him, from Rome to Naples to Parma to Turin to Milan. And, since he couldn’t manage to keep up with all the music they were asking him to write, he started copying stuff wherever he could find it, the way some of my pupils do. There’s one, in fact, who seems to take his lessons from the devil himself. You know wheat he does, when I give them Latin dictation? He goes… Where does he go? But what’s this got to do with anything? Ah, yes, Luigi Ricci.
Once again, I’m behind the schedule I’ve arbitrarily set for myself. But luckily for me, I’m the only one who notices.
So, The Brewer of Preston, by Andrea Camilleri, who also wrote the Inspector Montalbano series. This book is actually set in the same town of Vigata in Sicily, set in the 1870s. The unification of Italy and the difficulties in merging such disparate regions and cultures are overarching plot points in the story.
If you’ve seen a Wes Anderson film like The Grand Budapest Hotel or The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, you’ve got a sense of what The Brewer of Preston is like. It is eccentric. It is determinedly, insistently eccentric. It is full of colors that are just slightly too bright, characters that are fiercely peculiar, and situations that are so odd that they’ve moved beyond implausible into a range that’s so unlikely that you find yourself taking each new revelation in stride.
There are two difficulties with this book. First, it’s a translation from the original Italian, and a lot of the humor is based on what I can only imagine is a detailed cultural knowledge of Italian regional differences. It’s not hard to see that a lot is lost in translation.
The second challenge is the presentation of the story. It’s as if each of chapters was put into a hat and then drawn out at random to create a chapter order. To say it is not in chronological order is an understatement, and it’s not until a postscript at the end of the author’s note at the very end of the book – a postscript which is on its own page, I might add – that you find out it’s intentionally disjointed, and that Camilleri encourages you to read in whatever order you want. If you ask me, that should have been put as a disclaimer at the start.
I don’t know if I’ll ever feel a need to read this again, but it’s an amusing and short diversion, so if aggressively quirky stories are something you enjoy, look it up when it’s released this winter.
Next up is Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile but I’m taking a short break from book-blogging to read Randall Munroe‘s What If? book. Because science can be funny, but I don’t want to ruin it for you all.
By the way, that poll in my last post proved useless. It doesn’t help me if you choose “other” without offering a suggestion, people.