This is a transcription of ‘Proper British Beavers and Two New Books — 17 November 2023’
Melissa: Coming up, a fun, fresh twist on Golden Age detectives.
David: A musician writes about the songs that moved him.
Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.
David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.
David: First, a programming note! You won’t hear from us next Friday. On November the 24, we will be sleeping off our turkey and taking it easy.
Melissa: We absolutely will. Probably eating some apple cake when we wake up from our nap.
David: But we couldn’t leave you entirely, so we’ll be re-releasing Mel’s reading of the Thanksgiving story, ‘Home for the Holidays.’ That will come out on Monday. It’s a cozy pre-dinner sofa sit for your ears. Second, today we’ve got a guest coming in to talk about her distraction of the week. Her name is Carrie, and she’s the co-host of the podcast The Perks of Being a Book Lover.
Melissa: Last week, we had her partner-in-crime Amy as our guest, and I hope that a bunch of you downloaded a few episodes of their excellent podcast. If you didn’t listen yet, now is the time. Treat yourself to The Perks of Being a Book Lover! Last week, they did a show packed with reading recommendations for November in different categories including Autumn, Native American Heritage Month, Diwali, Day of the Dead, and No-Shave November.
David: That last one seems like a stretch.
Melissa: You have to listen to the show and find out.
David: Yeah. When did November get so busy? It used to be sort of a quiet little fall month, tucked in between Halloween and the winter holidays. And now it’s got, like six jobs.
Melissa: Be strong, November.
David: You’ll hear from Carrie later in this episode with a great Distraction of the Week. But first, we’re going to talk about two new titles. Mel, what’s your book this week?
Melissa: Way back in May, we took a trip to Amsterdam to see Vermeer paintings and to shop in English-language bookstores.
David: All three of those things Amsterdam that exhibit and the English language bookstores were all delightful.
Melissa: English was everywhere in Amsterdam, and we were on our way to a bookstore and saw two more English language bookstores, and then stumbled onto a street with a book fair of books in English.
David: Yeah, it was great.
Melissa: Anyway, one of the books I plucked off the bookshop shelf was ‘The Three Dahlias’ by Katy Watson. The cover shows an illustration of a classic manor house with the tagline, ‘It wouldn’t be a country house weekend without a little murder.’
David: That is talking to you.
Melissa: It is! I found a sunny window seat in the corner of the shop and read the first few chapters — and I decided it was worth smushing into my carry-on bag.
David: We had overloaded carry on bags coming back from Amsterdam.
Melissa: With book shaped bulges poking out the sides.
David: A little food, as I recall.
Melissa: When we got home, I kind of forgot about that book. Until a few weeks ago when I was recovering from surgery, and I went scrounging around my bookshelves for something fun to read. This was the perfect book to distract me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read that celebrates the tropes of manor House stories. There are long held grudges, romantic rivalries, family secrets, and amateur detectives with moxie.
Melissa: Here’s the setup: In the 1930s, the author Lettice Davenport created a heroine named Dahlia Lively. Dahlia is beautiful, stylish, intelligent, and unflappable. In my imagination, she’s a blonde version of Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries — and the author that created her is a fictional Agatha Christie.
Melissa: When this story opens, fans are gathered at the author’s former estate for a glitzy convention. In attendance are three actresses who have portrayed the detective Dahlia on screen through the decades. In the movie that played in my imagination while I was reading, they were played by Helen Mirren, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Boynton, all with British accents, of course. [DAVE]
Melissa: On the convention’s first night, at a fancy dinner party, someone is poisoned — just like a character in one of the Dahlia Lively stories. Our three heroines put aside their professional rivalries and team up to find the murderer. Betrayals are revealed! Secrets are brought to light! New alliances are formed!
Melissa: I loved the contemporary setting merged with the tropes of a Golden Age mystery. I have zero secrets in my real life, but I love a group of shady characters with secrets to hide. That’s The Three Dahlias by Katy Watson.
David: Jeff Tweedy is a singer and songwriter. He’s probably best known for his work with the band Wilco. Do you ever have a band that it seems like you should like? On paper, it looks good. They play in a style you like. Maybe they’re local. They’re about your age. They seem cool. But, then the music starts, and it just doesn’t go anywhere for you? It just doesn’t hit you in the gut for whatever reason. That’s me and Wilco. I should like them. I like people who like them. But. We just never quite saw eye-to-eye.
David: But. Jeff Tweedy as a writer? That’s a different story. I read his autobiography a few years ago. Mostly because of that other stuff: local, cool, about my age. That book is called, ‘Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back).’ I enjoyed his stories about struggling with being a working musician. Then he wrote a book about songwriting called, ‘How to Write One Song: Loving the Things We Create and How They Love Us Back.’ And he walks through how he does it — how he writes a song. He talks about the creative process, and gives you exercises for working on songs. He talks about wrestling with writer’s block, worrying about whether you’re any good, and all the other demons that come with making things. I would absolutely recommend that book. If you’ve got someone writing music in your life, that would be a fantastic gift.
David: And now Tweedy has a third book. It’s called ‘World Within a Song: Music That Changed My Life and Life That Changed My Music.’ In this, he introduces a bunch of songs that mean something to him. He starts with Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ends with the Staples Singers and ‘I’ll Take You There.’ And along the way, he talks about a whole lot of great music. Some of it will probably be new to you. Some might just be someone else saying, ‘You know what’s great? Otis Redding. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. GO AHEAD. Try to have a different opinion.’
David: In this book, he walks through his relationship with different songs, talks about how that opinion has changed over time, and why. He spills some music history and some personal history. And, in the end, it feels like flipping through his record collection over a beer or two and getting some solid stories. If you want to toughen up that impression, he narrated the audiobook. You could download that and flip between the audiobook and Spotify and make a very pleasant couple of nights out of it. That is Jeff Tweedy’s ‘World Within a Song.’
David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]
David: We’re here with Amy and Carrie from Perks of Being a Book Lover. Carrie, I understand you have a distraction of the week for us.
Carrie: I do. So I saw this, I think it was on BBC, on Facebook, a news report that a baby beaver was born in London. And it’s the first baby beaver born in London in something like 400 years. Which I found super exciting. You know, I’ve been to London but don’t live there. I don’t live anywhere close to there, but I have a thing about wildlife. And so apparently this particular — I guess it’s a neighborhood council began London’s beaver reintroduction program in 2022 to bring beavers back to the capital. And so obviously it’s having some success because people spot it. And there’s even a photo of this little beaver who looks like he’s got some algae on his face. It’s a very distinctive picture of said beaver, but I found it fascinating. I sort of love little nuggets of weird that that pop across, you know, Facebook or Twitter or, or whatever it’s called today. But the reason this I found this so appealing is because I recently found a book. I haven’t read it yet, but I really want to. And you’re going to you’re going to see where this is going. I mentioned this on our show, but it’s called the book that I discovered recently. It’s called Beaver Land, which could be x-rated if you just stop there. But there’s a subtitle, so it’s Beaver Land: How One Weird Rodent Made America by Leila Philip, and it was published in 2022 and is now on my list because I just need to know more about beavers. And between seeing the book and now this report about London Beavers, I’m like the the world karma is telling me that this is the time I really need to investigate more.
Amy: Did they say why they wanted them in London specifically? Because it seems like. Can see, maybe like in the suburbs or a little farther out. But why in London?
Carrie: I think, you know, London is just — there’s a lot of concrete which impacts flooding. It makes flooding worse. So if they have some beavers that are sort of making dams and, you know, I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know exactly what beavers do, but I assume that it has benefits for the ecosystem. So I assume that that’s why they want to reintroduce them because of flooding issues, which would be worse in the city than maybe in some of the rural areas.
Amy: That makes sense.
Melissa: When we did our episode about London, Dave talked about just the menagerie that used to be in London during the 16th and 17th centuries, I think.
David: Yeah, the Tower of London used to have a lot of animals that were gifted to the royalty there, and one of the things they had was a polar bear.
Carrie: And I remember listening to this episode and thinking, that’s bananas.
David: Yeah, I know.
Melissa: The poor, lonely polar bear going down to the river to catch a fish.
David: Yeah. And the poor guy who was hired to walk him out there. I hope that goes well. [laughter]
Melissa: Visit strongsenseofplace.com/library more about the fantastic podcast The Perks of Being a Book Lover, the beavers of London, and all the books we talked about today.
David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.
Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.
Top image courtesy of McGill Library/Unsplash.
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