Monday, January 07, 2013

Unusual Uses for Olive Oil by Alexander McCall Smith

He's back. American readers first learned of Professor Dr Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld, a learned philologist and author of the much-acclaimed and little-read 1200-page Portuguese Irregular Verbs, in 2005 when Alexander McCall Smith's 1997 comic novel Portuguese Irregular Verbs (only 128 pages) was published in America. Other books in the series, The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs and At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances reached America that same year. It appeared the books would remain a trilogy until 2011, when McCall Smith published Unusual Uses for Olive Oil in Great Britain. It is now available here, too.

Fans will remember the professor is very protective of his reputation and spars frequently with his academic rivalries over very obscure points of philology, manners, and department etiquette. He also gets to travel to conferences to present the same lecture over and over to the same group of academics. He often finds himself in ridiculous situations of his own making. He was, of course, especially hurt when he saw a copy of Portuguese Irregular Verbs that he had given to a potential love interest used as a foot stool.

In Unusual Uses for Olive Oil, life continues for the silly Dr Dr, but I sense a little more sympathy in his soul. Not enough for him to fall truly in love or put others first, but he does seem to learn to look more kindly on the department's talkative librarian Herr Huber.

If ever there is a man who really needed a valet, it is Professor von Igelfeld. Read Unusual Uses for Olive Oil and you'll see why. By the way, you will not learn about the olive oil until the final chapter.

McCall Smith, Alexander. Unusual Uses for Olive Oil. Anchor Books, 2012. 203p. ISBN 9780307279897.

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