This first new week of the New Year, I returned two books to my library:

This weird cover would attract anyone!

This debut novel by a well-known Irish musician has been described as “quietly brilliant,” and I would concur. It is about “two single, thirty-something men,” who are friends, and belong to the “uncelebrated [population] of this world.” In one word, they are nice.

Unlike so many thirty-somethings of today, they seem to understand the meaning of life.

Not much happens to either character, and not much happens in the book. “Hungry Paul sat slumped in the sitting room and stayed there for most of the evening, catatonic with failure and looking out the front window as car after car ran over a lost glove in the road.”

One big thing happens to Hungry Paul:

“President Mike (of the Chamber of Commerce) handed Paul a giant cheque for ten grand…[Paul] accepted the congratulations of his family, the Chamber of Commerce members, and other well-wishers.”

A big thing happens to Leonard as well. After losing his mother and continuing to live in the empty house he and she had lived in, Leonard meets Shelly, then loses Shelly. How this eventually plays out, you will have to read for yourself.

It is an engaging, fast read, bordering on the Minimalist style of writing. It is not an in-depth character, nor is there much action in the novel, but, overall, it’s a darned good read.

Another book in the Minimalist tradition

Perhaps because it is a translation from the original Japanese, this “fable-like tale” feels more like a connected collection of short stories than a novel. It deals with the unfolding of human relationships and missed opportunities. It has been described as both “mysterious” and “quirky”; I would have to agree.

Four customers at an back-alley cafe in Tokyo travel through time when they sit in that chair when the ghost-lady leaves it once a day to go to the restroom. Rules govern their trips: they must sit in that seat and not leave it or they will return abruptly to the present; they must visit someone who frequents the cafe; they can not change the outcome of the present; they must return before the coffee gets cold. Interestingly, only one customer travels to the future.

All in all, it is a “very charming read.”