Invited to lecture in America, von Igelfeld envisions a visit to California or New York. Instead, he finds himself at the University of Arkansas. Still, in von Igelfeld's view, one American state is very like the other. An expert philolgist, von Igelfeld prepares to deliver a talk on verbs, until he makes a grim discovery--he has been mistaken for a German master of veterinary science who has recently passed away.
Alexander McCall Smith leaves us with one more charming book.
This short book isn't so much a novel, as a series of episodes. The events of each episode are largely unrelated to the events of another, so one comes away almost feeling that one has read a short story collection rather than a novel.
It is also refreshingly peaceful. Like Smith's Ladies Number 1 Detective Agency series, the book is free of evildoers, and makes for a pleasant and relaxing read.
The second installment of the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series had some highs and lows. It seems like this title leaned into the satirical element more; there were moments when I actually laughed out loud. However, some of that leaning in also made it a little bit absurd, like the fate of the poor sausage dog, which will not sit well with many readers I think. Unlike the previous title, this one seemed like more of a continuous narrative than a bunch of vignettes; neither style is bad, but just worth noting the difference. Once again, completely unnecessary and unhelpful black-and-white illustrations occasionally pepper the text.
I continue to not be overly thrilled with this series but find it a light relief from the darker media I usually consume. That, combined with the fact that there's only four titles in total, means that I will probably press forward with this series.
If, like me, you read Portuguese Irregular Verbs and consider not wasting your time with the other books in the series, I will gently nudge you towards The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. It is a short read and may convince you, like it did me, to continue reading the further books in the series. Just be forewarned that the humour still continues to be very dry and might not appeal to all readers.
The book is supposed to be a satire of academics, and it is, in a very gentle way. The main character is a German professor of Romance languages, who seriously believes that the rest of the world is as fascinated by Portuguese irregular verbs as he is. There are several volumes in this series about his bewildered interaction with people outside his beloved institute.
The problem is that the satire is too gentle, and the humor too dry. It's odd, and sweet, but nothing more. There's no bite to it, and satire without bite is, well, boring.
In addition, the Sausage Dog of the title is first abused (the professor accidentally amputates three of its legs) and then handed over to a religious cult that wants to worship its bones when it dies. (Don't ask, really. I'm a religious studies major, and I winced at how offensive this section is to the Copts.) This is all played for laughs (of the very dry and gentle kind). Obviously, I didn't' think this was funny at all.
I did have a good time imagining how entertaining this book could have been if Mr. Smith actually knew any sausage dogs. Any Dachshund I have ever met would take on the professor, take over his life and home, commandeer his food supply, and convince him to enjoy the experience. Watching the professor mull over Portuguese etymology while his Dachshund manipulates him from underfoot could have been very, very funny.