Mystery on the side

I’m listening to another Nabokov novel, and no surprise, it’s great. This one is about a struggling businessman who also seems a bit mentally unstable, running across a vagrant who happens to look exactly like him.

The instant he sees this face, a plan sparks in his mind. You can tell, but, you don’t know what that plan is… and that is the mystery. Not how he is going to do something (he’s going to do it by using a look-alike in some way) but what he is going to do.

Since it’s Nabokov, I automatically suspect that this guy is way less smart than he thinks he is, and also that there is a lot going on between the lines. I’ve not yet discovered much, but it is fun searching for it.

Spies

I started The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: A George Smiley Novel (George Smiley Novels) which is my first Lecarre novel. It took me a bit to get into it, but now it is interesting. The character, Leamas, Is pretending to be a drunken failure (at least I’m pretty sure he’s pretending) and is currently working at a library as an assistant, and annoying the heck out of the librarian. I think the idea is for him to become an exile, and be looked down on by all his fellow agents enough that he is approached by the other side to try and turn him… I think. Anyway, its fun, and something you have to think about a bit which is always good. Hope it continues that way!

The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Mr. Ripley did not end the way I expected, though, if I’d noticed that it was part of a series maybe I would have guessed.

I really enjoyed this book. The protagonist, Tom, is a disgusting creature, but consistently interesting. He, like any good villain, does not realize what he’s doing is wrong, he has perfect justifications for it and only the mildest bit of guilt.

I also liked his constant paranoia about being caught. He’s sure he’s messed up somehow, or forgotten something, or that people will see through his lies. That part makes him likeable enough to keep reading through the terrible things he does. His relief and surprise at constantly not being found out is identifiable, as well as the bit of arrogance and self satisfaction that comes along with it.

The end, though, as far as story structure goes, seems a bit of an anticlimax. He does so much stuff that all builds up to… him not being caught. I was expecting him to come crashing down and get captured, or at least be found out and have to flee. But everything goes exactly as he planned in the end and he escapes with the treasure, so to speak, and no harm to him at all.

I’m somewhat curious about the other books in the series, just to see if there is some kind of arc other than him becoming a soulless killer with no consequences.

Enjoyable book, though!

Repulsive beings

I’m still reading The Talented Mr. Ripley and the character, Tom, has now murdered someone and is in the process of taking over their life.

The descriptions of him trying on the persons clothes, shoes, jewelry, is somehow disgusting. I don’t know what it is in the writing that gave me this uneasy feeling of disgust toward Tom, he seemed a repulsive, slimy thing slipping into a nice persons skin. In the same scene, not only is he trying on the clothes, but he is ‘trying on’ the dead man’s personality, so to speak, practicing impersonating him. Finding that he likes this person more than himself. Something about the whole thing just gave me an unclean, gross feeling even though the author didn’t use any overtly gross words. It was a very memorable and impressive scene. I may have to read it over again to try to pinpoint what exactly it was that gave me that feeling.

Manipulators

I’ve begun reading The Talented Mr. Ripley and am finding the character, Tom, very interesting in a ‘look at that crime scene’ kind of way. I only vaguely remember the movie, but so far the story of the novel is about a small time con artist, and very charming man Tom Ripley being sent to Europe by the father of a friend of his, in order to convince that friend to come home to America and be with his ill mother. Tom, who barely remembers this friend, is able to somehow steer the conversation in such a way that his expenses and ticket are paid for by the father.

So far, Tom has been working his way into the friend, Dicky’s, life, and watching him do it is very entertaining. Something about manipulative people is interesting to me, maybe because it’s a skill I don’t perceive myself as having, or being able to use with a clear conscience. Tom, however, is not a cold, calculating manipulator, but an emotional, spontaneous one that sometimes doesn’t even seem to realize what he’s doing.

I vaguely remember from the movie where the story ends up (I think) but am excited to find out how it gets there.

The City and the City, by China Mieville

I finished reading The City & The City and was impressed, intrigued and am interested in reading some of his other books.

A murder investigation in a foreign city which is actually two cities who spend their days ignoring each other… what could go wrong?

I found this crime novel to be very creative, and though it is not quite fantasy or sci fi, it is not exactly in our world either (this city obviously doesn’t exist, though its location is real enough). Nothing supernatural is involved, besides the strange powers of the human mind to be blind to the things we train ourselves to unsee.

The story was quite engaging and exciting, and the mystery very gripping. Only at the very end did it lose a bit of steam, when it fell into the cliche of the hero and villain having a long conversation to explain all of what happened while pointing guns at each other. Otherwise, a very satisfying read and I’m glad I picked it up.

I’d recommend it to any fans of crime dramas, as well as fans of speculative or weird fiction.

A likable “I”

I started reading The City & The City, by China Mieville and my disappointment at it being in first person was quickly quashed by the great writing and non-annoying character.

Too many times, first person narratives have the same arrogant, ‘quirky,’ snide, sarcastic character that everyone around them seems to love, but I want to punch in the face as I’m reading.

I suppose I haven’t read enough first person narratives. This one so far is a normal human character, not someone trying to force their personality down your throat in every paragraph. It’s nice. I can’t say that I ‘like’ him, yet, but this kind of writing certainly makes it easier to like the character.

Interested for more…