No writer churns out the charm as fast as Alexander McCall Smith -- currently juggling five prolific series of novels plus many extras, averaging four or five new books each year -- but there's a brain behind the torrent of comfort. At 65 he is emeritus professor at the University of Edinburgh's law school and former chairman of the British Medical Journal Ethics Committee. Last week, Princeton released his newest book, What W. H. Auden Can Do for You [Kindle]. The jacket copy says,
"Part self-portrait, part literary appreciation, the book tells how McCall Smith first came across the poet's work in the 1970s, while teaching law in Belfast, a violently divided city where Auden's "September 1, 1939," a poem about the outbreak of World War II, strongly resonated. McCall Smith goes on to reveal how his life has related to and been inspired by other Auden poems ever since. For example, he describes how he has found an invaluable reflection on life's transience in "As I Walked Out One Evening," while "The More Loving One" has provided an instructive meditation on unrequited love. McCall Smith shows how Auden can speak to us throughout life, suggesting how, despite difficulties and change, we can celebrate understanding, acceptance, and love for others."
Alexander McCall Smith will discuss the gay poet at the 92nd St Y on November 8.