Sunday, April 10, 2011
Rec. #100: To Say Nothing of the Dog
What: I saved something very special for this momentous 100th recommendation. To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my top-five all-time favorite books. It's the middle of the twenty-first century. Ned Henry and Verity Kindle are historians and, in 2057, that means they do a lot of time traveling. Ned and Verity have been taken from their usual work and conscripted to retrieve the elusive bishop's bird stump (don't worry; they don't know what it is, either). They've been working separate angles --- Ned in the 1940s and Verity in the Victorian age. Once their paths cross, they have to contend with obstacles like time-lag, jumble sales, World War II, a false medium, brief stopovers in 1395 and 1933, slippage, and a menace named Lady Schrapnell. Just to name a few.
It's a comedy of manners. It's science fiction. It's a farce. It's a meditation on chaos theory. It's a satire. It's a puzzlebox mystery. It's layers of literary allusion. It's a broad sweep of historical drama. It's one of those rare books that just makes you happy to be alive, and not for anything that at all resembles maudlin drivel.
Comparable to: Not exactly like anything else, but a little like almost everything.
Representative quote: "History was indeed controlled by blind forces, as well as character and courage and treachery and love. And accident and random chance. And stray bullets and telegrams and tips. And cats."
You might not like it if: You actually think this book is about retrieving the bishop's bird stump.
How to get it: Buy it, either paper or digital. Also, could someone please convince a Coralie Bickford-Smith-ish designer to do a new, gorgeous edition of this book? (I wouldn't say no to other books by Connie Willis, either.) I would buy so many copies.