mercredi 7 juillet 2010

“The Good Husband of Zebra Drive” by Alexander McCall Smith

Le présent billet a été rédigé par Jacquie Bridonneau, que je remercie.

“The Good Husband of Zebra Drive” by Alexander McCall Smith

A book in the series “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” Published by First Anchor Books Edition $13.95

“The Good Husband of Zebra Drive” is a good, easy to read, fun and entertaining book which will be a good one to slip into your vacation suitcase, and read while relaxing at the pool, or on the beach. This is the eighth book in Alexander McCall Smith’s enjoyable series about Precious Ramotswe, a “traditionally built” woman who lives on Zebra Drive, and who is the at the head of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, located in a building she shares with Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, her husband and head of the Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors garage.

Precious Ramotswe, or Mma Ramotswe as she is most commonly called in the book, is a good lady, full of common sense, diplomacy, philosophy and endowed with kindness and dignity. She is one of those people that always see the glass as being half full, and who is able to bring out the best in anyone. She is assisted in her job by Mma Makutsi, who, being engaged, is considering leaving the Agency, in spite of the fact that she had the enviable score of 97% in the Botswana Secretarial College typing exam. And Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni also wants to branch out of his garage, and take on a bit of detective work, so Mma Romatswe’s life could possibly be changing drastically.

There is rarely a dull moment in this book, as Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate a series of unexpected deaths at the Mochudi hospital, and other mysteries crop up in this book, which she and her assistants are able to solve.

But this is not really a book about solving crimes, we do not have to wait until the very last pages of the book to understand “whodunit.” This is a book promoting the universality of human nature, and about life in Mma Ramotswe’s beloved country of Botswana, its specificities, way of living, flora and fauna. When you read this book, you want to know more about this country: here are just a few facts that I looked up.

“Formerly the British protectorate of Bechuanaland, Botswana adopted its new name upon independence in 1966. Four decades of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have created one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. Mineral extraction, principally diamond mining, dominates economic activity, though tourism is a growing sector due to the country's conservation practices and extensive nature preserves. Botswana has the world's highest known rate of HIV/AIDS infection, but also one of Africa's most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.” (Botswana facts website)

“Botswana has maintained one of the world's highest growth rates since independence in 1966. Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country with a per capita GDP of $8,800 in 2003. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa. Diamond mining has fuelled much of the expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP and for nine-tenths of export earnings. Tourism, subsistence farming, and cattle raising are other key sectors. On the downside, the government must deal with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Unemployment officially is 21%, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40%.” (Botswana facts website)

“What is Botswana Famous for?

• Being the number 1 tourism destination in Africa
Botswana also ranks within the Top 10 of the favorite global tourist destinations!

• Political Stability

• Having the largest Elephant population in Africa

• Being the largest producer of diamonds in the world (...by value)

• Last but not least the loving and friendly people of Botswana.” (safaris-in-Botswana.com)

So even if you can’t go to Botswana, where by the way, the official language is English, for your summer vacation, just reading this pleasant non-intellectual but entertaining book will give you plenty of ideas for next year!

mardi 6 juillet 2010

Football (soccer) and American football quotes # 2

Dans ce billet, Jonathan Goldberg nous présente la suite des citations qu'il a recueillies sur le football européen et américain.

When I went to Catholic high school in Philadelphia, we just had one coach for football and basketball. He took all of us who turned out and had us run through a forest. The ones who ran into the trees were on the football team.
George Raveling

Football is not a game but a religion, a metaphysical island of fundamental truth in a highly verbalized, disguised society, a throwback of 30,000 generations of anthropological time.
Arnold Mandell

I do not like football, which I think of as a game in which two tractors approach each other from opposite directions and collide. Besides, I have contempt for a game in which players have to wear so much equipment. Men play basketball in their underwear, which seems just right to me.
Anna Quindlen
Living Out Loud, 1988

The Rose Bowl is the only bowl I've ever seen that I didn't have to clean.
Erma Bombeck

Rugby football is a game I can't claim absolutely to understand in all its niceties, if you know what I mean. I can follow the broad, general principles, of course. I mean to say, I know that the main scheme is to work the ball down the field somehow and deposit it over the line at the other end and that, in order to squalch this programme, each side is allowed to put in a certain amount of assault and battery and do things to its fellowman which, if done elsewhere, would result in fourteen days without the option, coupled with some strong remarks from the Bench.
P.G. Wodehouse
Very Good, Jeeves, 1930

Australian Rules football might best be described as a game devised for padded cells, played in the open air.
Jim Murray

I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.
Jack Tatum

He was the only man I ever saw who ran his own interference.
Steve Owen
About Bronko Nagurski

The tactical difference between Association Football and Rugby with its varieties seems to be that in the former the ball is the missile, in the latter men are the missiles.
Alfred E. Crawley
The Book of the Ball, 1913

When it comes to football, God is prejudiced - toward big, fast kids.
Chuck Mills

Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control.
Tom Landry

Speed, strength, and the inability to register pain immediately.
Reggie Williams
Asked his greatest strengths as a football player

What about football? Is it a sport or a concussion?
Jim Murray
Los Angeles Times

The fewer rules a coach has, the fewer rules there are for players to break.
John Madden

To succeed...You need to find something to hold on to, something to motivate you, something to inspire you.
Tony Dorsett

The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.
Vince Lombardi

There are several differences between a football game and a revolution. For one thing, a football game usually lasts longer and the participants wear uniforms. Also, there are usually more casualties in a football game. The object of the game is to move a ball past the other team's goal line. This counts as six points. No points are given for lacerations, contusions, or abrasions, but then no points are deducted, either. Kicking is very important in football. In fact, some of the more enthusiastic players even kick the ball, occasionally.
Alfred Hitchcock

The word 'genius' isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.
Joe Theisman
The NFL quarterback

Baseball ain't like football . . . you can't make up any trick plays.
Yogi Berra

Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.
Vincent Lombardi

If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat.
Herschel Walker

You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That's the mark of a true professional.
Joe Paterno

If you can believe it, the mind can achieve it.
Ronnie Lott

Jonathan Goldberg 

lundi 5 juillet 2010

Solar, par Ian McEwan, Jonathan Cape, 2010, couverture rigide, 18,99 livres sterling

Le présent billet est la version française d'un article de Jacquie Bridonneau qui a été publié il y a quelques jours.

“Solar” est un récit dont le narrateur est Michael Beard, lauréat du Prix Nobel de physique pour avoir conçu une théorie brillante, appelée « conflation », qui a modifié l'interprétation d'une partie de l’œuvre d'Einstein et, en conséquence, la compréhension de l'interaction entre la matière et le rayonnement électronique. Mais, avant que vous ne cessiez de lire ce billet parce que, comme moi, vous n'avez jamais rien compris de ce que vous racontait votre professeur de physique et que cela ne vous a nullement handicapé jusqu'à présent, je tiens à préciser que ce qui précède ne fait que donner des informations générales sur le personnage principal qui, depuis qu'il a eu une idée de génie quand il était un jeune chercheur, n'a jamais rien fait d'autre et s'est contenté de vivre sur sa réputation. Nous voyons le monde du point de vue de Michael Beard et obtenons des bribes d'informations sur sa "conflation" et sur la façon dont cette théorie permettra de sauver le monde grâce à l'utilisation d'une énergie bon marché obtenue au moyen d'un procédé de photosynthèse artificielle, mais tout cela est facile à comprendre.

Michael Beard est un homme de petite taille, gros, assez âgé et presque chauve mais, pour une raison étrange, il suscite l'intérêt des femmes. C'est en effet bien étrange car il est égoïste, égocentrique et tout à fait méprisable, mais il le sait et ne fait rien pour changer. Il consomme du vin, des femmes et des aliments sans mesure, en ne recherchant que la satisfaction à court terme. Il a en effet été marié cinq fois et a deux liaisons principales au cours du récit, avec deux femmes qui pensent qu'elles deviendront sa sixième épouse, alors qu'il est toujours amoureux de sa cinquième femme, qui a eu l'audace de le quitter et, à la fin du livre, il a une fille de trois ans, son premier et dernier enfant.

Enormément d'événements se produisent pendant la période de neuf années que couvre ce livre, qui comporte trois parties correspondant aux années 2000, 2005 et 2009 ; et certaines d'entre elles sont très drôles. Pourtout, lorsqu'on arrive à la fin du livre, tout semble s'être passé dans la tête de Michael Beard et on a l'impression que son voyage dans l'Arctique, le "Centre" dans lequel il travaille, con collègue physicien Aldous, qui a d'ailleurs une liaison avec la femme de Michael, et meurt à la suite d'un accident bizarre, que tout cela n'est qu'une sorte de décor, qui défile rapidement, tandis que Michael continue à faire avancer le récit et l'intrigue dans sa tête.

Il y a donc une mort dans ce récit, même si elle est accidentelle, mais Michael, qui a assisté à cette mort, s'arrange pour faire accuser l'autre amant de sa femme, un entrepreneur qui avait réalisé des travaux sur la maison de Michael, et il se retrouve en prison pour meurtre. Il fait une réapparition à la fin pour tourmenter Michael, mais pas pour la raison que le lecteur et Michael imaginent. Il y a donc une justice dans ce livre mais elle est surprenante : le bien triomphe du mal, mais le mal se défend farouchement en la personne de Michael Beard.

Faut-il recommander ce livre ? Assurément. Comme c'était le premier livre de Ian McEwan que je lisais, je n'en attendais rien de particulier. C'est très bien écrit, parfois satirique, et il y a divers rebondissements inattendus. Et je suis parvenue à comprendre les éléments de physique qui y étaient exposés. Mes professeurs de lycée peuvent donc être fiers de moi.