Sunday, February 26, 2023

Charles Baxter's The Sun Collective


Fans of the work of Don Delillo, or those of you who like my novel Crab, might find Charles Baxter’s The Sun Collective (Pantheon Books, 2020) an intriguing and worthwhile read. A combination of realism and political parable set in a just slightly alternative world (so slight that the differences might or might not really be there), the novel explores what it means to care for others, or to even imagine one might be caring for others, under the massive political strains of contemporary high tech, hyperreal capitalism. The related problems of alienation and aging (and both together) are handled deftly.

The Minneapolis setting gave off a powerful aura of social deadness that occasionally and unexpectedly springs to life. I can’t think of many novels that capture the feel of Midwestern cities this uniquely and precisely. The writing style is often quite gorgeous, although the novel did feel a little long-winded in some portions. Thanks, Dan Nielsen, for suggesting this book to me.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Edogawa Rampo: The Black Lizard and Beast in The Shadows


These two Japanese mystery-adventure novels from the 1920s share a lot in common with their European counterparts of the same era. Wildly improbable plots not even meant to be probable are linked with a lot of coincidences and reversals and nearly cartoonish action. The detective of The Black Lizard is nearly a superhero, while the narrative of Beast In The Shadows could nearly be called postmodern, with unreliable narratives nested inside unreliable narratives. Edogawa Rampo was the pen name of Hiro TarĊ (18940-1965) and is an anagram and cross-language pun for Edgar Allan Poe. These books weren’t meant as great literature and they aren’t, but they were early and essential books in establishing a Japanese tradition of the detective novel, one that continues like most national traditions in the detective novel to be continually expanding, lucrative, and entertaining.