Thursday, November 29, 2007

Embarrassing confession

I had a boss once who was bad at remembering people's names, but astonishing in his recall of the pattern of consonants and vowels in those names. He'd say, "it's Joe something, consonant consonant vowel consonant" and sure enough, it would be a Joe Blow. That's a lazy example so I don't have to write out "consonant" and "vowel" too many times, but he'd do it with long names, too. I found it amusing and, as always with the way memory works, intriguing.

I have my own version of that, but it's less Stupid Human Tricks and more Stupid Human. Echoing that consonant vowel memory but without its usefulness, I tend to mix up names like Harper and Martin. In fact, exactly like Harper and Martin. This is a problem, non-Canadian readers, because Harper and Martin are the last names of our last two prime ministers, who are not at all similar. When it seems like you can't remember who runs your country, it can be a bit of a credibility issue.

Recently, I had an even less explainable lapse. My local grocery store had a bin of discounted paperbacks by the register, and I impulse bought one by an author I admire, celebrating at my luck in getting such a bargain on a new read by the man who wrote Saturday and Atonement, Ian Whatshisface.

The book's been sitting on my shelf for weeks waiting for its turn in my reading lineup, and when I finally picked it up a few days ago, something didn't seem right. The jacket cover looked a little less literary than I'd have expected. Reading beyond the author's name and the title brought the sad news that this was number 13 in a series. The Inspector Rebus series. Uh oh.

I'd bought a book by Ian Rankin instead of Ian McEwan. There are consonants and vowels in the wrong place all over those names. I'm sure Rankin is good at what he does, and he probably sells far more books than McEwan, but I'm not a crime or mystery fan at all, never mind the fact that I've missed out on the first 12 of Inspector Rebus's adventures. You can tell, too, from reading Resurrection Men that there are constant references to already covered ground, which makes it an infuriating and boring read for someone coming in at #13.

Yes, that means I'm reading it anyway. I don't have anything more compelling in line at the moment, and I'm always looking for new authors to try out, and I thought maybe this would end up being a serendipitous memory failure. It wasn't. The book has my attention just enough to beat out the Cagney and Lacey book I should but probably never will review, but not enough of my attention that it will outlast my next book shopping trip, which I'm now motivated to schedule soon. Armed with a detailed shopping list.