In the reading room of my apartment, which would be a walk-through closet (and linen closet) to an ordinary person, a collection of detective stories by Alexander McCall Smith takes up two areas -- one for his Scottish stories about Isabel Dalhousie, starting with "The Sunday Philosophy Club" (one volume of which I've written about here), and one for his African series, starting with "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency."
Smith turns out these novels with enviable speed, along with another series of episodic, very short stories, which begins with (and at) "44 Scotland Street." I confess I've fallen behind on that one.
Still, Smith's stories appeal to me on many levels. The ones I think of as "the Isabel books" hold my attention because the heroine, Isabel Dalhousie, is a "half-American" middle-aged woman living in Scotland. As an American of half-Scottish ancestry and "of a certain age," I understand Isabel -- and my mind boggles at how well a somewhat older man has drawn both Isabel and his heroine in Botswana, Precious Ramotswe. The author has my deep gratitude.
That brings me to Isabel's adventure called "The Lost Art of Gratitude" (2009, Pantheon Books).
Whether it's a turned-in flap on the dust jacket or a small bookmark left behind, my copies of Smith's books have signposts leading me back to small, wonderful bits of writing. I love to take them off the shelf and re-read the marked parts.
In "The Lost Art of Gratitude," my bookmark (with photos of the Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks) lies at the end of Chapter 6:
"It met her eye, leapt from the page, the result of an absurdly long shot. But some long shots come home to roost, just as some metaphors are destined to be mixed."
I wonder whether that was a first-draft "problem" that survived all the rounds of editing that created the book. "Some long shots come home to roost" seems like the kind of thing that just doesn't happen intentionally! However it began, it survived, and it's a good influence. I'm grateful that it's there. Whenever it happened, I'm glad Smith decided to keep it.
Gratitude is, of course, the subject of the "case" in the book -- but it's also the result of reading anything by Alexander McCall Smith. Gratitude won't be a true "lost art" for me as long as his books are around.
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