Maybe. The reading is for certain; the flirting part is iffy. We’ll get to that later.
One of my favorite authors is James Lee Burke, who has a recurring character named Dave Robichaux, a deputy sheriff in New Iberia, Lousiana, where Burke himself lives although he now spends part of his time in Montana. The first of the Dave Robichaux books I read is In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. How could you not read a book with a title like that? I’ve read all but one since, and there are 11 of them. Another of my favorite titles is Last Car to Elysian Fields. Dave makes occasional forays from New Iberia to New Orleans, and of course, Elysian Fields is a main thoroughfare there, but the title is intended as double entendre. I traveled Elysian Fields frequently as it was just a couple of blocks from my house and had commercial businesses on it that served our neighborhood. One of its great attractions was that as you drove toward the Mississippi where it dead ends, you could often see ocean-going vessels in the water, 22 feet higher than where you were on the roadway. A vivid reminder that you were living below sea level.
In the books, Dave has a daughter named Alafair, which just so happens to be the name of James Lee Burke’s actual daughter, who is now a writer herself. I read the first (for me) of her books this week, and even though I’d warned myself not to expect her to be the same as her father, I was still disappointed. It was, as the critics say, formulaic. It takes place in New York City but you get no sense of place in the book. It might as well have been in Cleveland. James Lee is a master at creating the atmosphere of South Louisiana in which the plot unfolds. You get the sense of its strangeness and vague danger, and its beauty as well.
But perhaps I might not have thought so poorly of it if I hadn’t just finished Roscoe by William Kennedy. Kennedy was the author of Ironweed, for which he won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. When you read a book by a world class writer followed by a piece of fluff, the fluff looks that much worse. Not that I have anything against fluff. The book I read before Roscoe was Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich, another of my favorite writers.
And now to Roscoe. This book was loaned to me by a man I met at work in March. He’s the Project Manager for a construction company from out of town, and for business reasons too complicated to explain I see him for a few minutes at a time perhaps every other day and sometimes in passing at other times. He has seen me reading, and yet it surprised me one day when he struck up a conversation about William Kennedy, who he said was his favorite writer. Nobody, he said, can put together words like Kennedy, and tell a story the way he does.
The following week, I found Roscoe on my desk when I arrived at work. Sweet. It dawned on me that this guy might be flirting with me. (You were wondering when we would get to that part, right?) But you can never be sure. Propositions are sure. Flirting is ambiguous. So if there are any potential flirters out there who want to flirt with me, please remember to bring the Flash Card that says “Now Flirting.”
It turns out he was right about Kennedy. Roscoe was a marvelous book, as I said when I returned it. I might mention that while the setting is Albany, New York, and the machine politics there in the early days of the 20th century, it is um, very explicit shall we say. Which caused me to think there might definitely be some flirting involved. I mean, why would you give a woman a book like that? So when I returned it, I said, this was great. Sex and politics in New York State, how much better could it get? And he blushed! Hint to flirters, never blush, it’s a dead giveaway.
But I have to admit it was a great strategy. If I were interested in him, which I’m not, it would have given me an opening to start something. If I’m not interested, you can save face and just pretend you were all about sharing your literary preferences. But for all you other potential flirters out there, here’s a hint: Go ahead and loan me a book, and let’s see what happens.