"When facing a moral dilemma, Isabel Dalhousie--Edinburgh philosopher, amateur detective, and title character of a series of novels by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith--often refers to the great twentieth-century poet W. H. Auden. This is no accident: McCall Smith has long been fascinated by Auden. Indeed, the novelist, best known for his No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, calls the poet not only the greatest literary discovery of his life but also the best of guides on how to live. In this book, McCall Smith has written a charming personal account about what Auden has done for him and what he just might do for you."--Jacket.
I picked this up not because I've been a huge fan of Smith's fiction or of Auden's poetry, but because my dad, who is not a religious believer, has found a tremendous lot of spiritual solace in recent years in Smith's books, and I've read a couple out of curiosity. So far I've liked Mma Precious Ramotswe, of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, best – Isabel Dalhousie (Sunday Philosophy Club series) and Professor Dr von Igelfeld (Portuguese Irregular Verbs) are both pretty obnoxious, at least in their opening books – but I have been impressed by the way Smith portrays a wide range of quirky individuals with real warmth and sympathy. The characters in the books I've read myself and those my dad has described to me are wonderfully diverse in backgrounds and interests – they engage in philosophy, linguistics, music, law, politics, natural science, etc. – suggesting an author who views the world with a friendly, intelligent curiosity. In this little book on Auden, Smith seems to credit the poet with helping him develop this outlook, emphasizing Auden's compassion for those suffering and his appreciation for the love and the loveliness which also fill the world.
I was surprised by the number of “typo” sorts of errors I ran across – the sorts of things that should have been caught by a proof reader, but this is a minor complaint. As I said, I didn't start this as a big Auden fan, but by the time I'd finished I had quite a list of poems Smith had discussed that I now need to read or reread. Recommended!