Monday, July 9, 2007

Great minds: My momma and the Washington Post.

I don't spend much of this blog writing about genre fiction, not because I don't read it, but only because since I sort of started this blog to chronicle all the more "high-class" serious literature that I felt I needed to read and catch myself up on. Of course, over the months, this blog has morphed, but it remains that I still haven't touched any genre fic since I started this blog.

My mother, though, has recently been raving about this thriller she's been reading by Stephen L. Carter, The Emperor of Ocean Park. From the looks of it (the cover and blurb on the back, plus the big bolded endorsement by John Grisham on the front bottom center), it's your typical legal thriller. Nothing that excited me all the much, either. But my mom keeps telling me that this is the first book she's read in years where there were tons of words she didn't know (my mom's knowledge of vocabulary is pretty vast), and that the guy writes all these mini-philisophical statements that she just finds so interesting to ponder over. Um, really Mom? In a legal thriller?

Well, I guess I should learn to believe my mom's opinion of all things art and literature (this is, after all, the woman who bought me 5 different versions of The Secret Garden, took me to see the ballet since I was three knowing that at some point I'd appreciate the beauty in it, and borrowed books from the public library for me with impeccable taste), as today's NYTimes Paper Cuts "Skim" of book reviews included one for Mr. Carter's new book, New England White:


Washington Post Book World

Jabari Asim admires Stephen L. Carter's second novel, "New England White." "Let's be honest," Asim writes. "No one should read a Carter novel for the
mystery."

We know by now that the author is only partly concerned with whodunit; he'd rather ponder why any of us does the things we do — especially the bad things. For instance, we know it's wrong to cheat, lie, steal or wound, and yet hardly a day passes in which most of us don't commit at least one of these transgressions on some scale. Human weakness is troubling, fascinating stuff, and Carter has spent much of his career plumbing its depths.

He is, after all, an accomplished legal philosopher who has written persuasively about such cherished virtues as civility, integrity and faith. It's perversely pleasurable, then, to find that his fictional creations are reliably rude, dishonest and deliciously sinful.


So I guess someone else agrees with my mom. I forwarded this to her, and she wrote me back saying she absolutely agrees with Jabari -- but wonders if Jabari is a him or a her. [Why is that important, Mom?] She says the philosophizing is what makes this book so different and engaging. Though the mystery is fun too.

Makes me think of Orson Scott Card for some reason. Using genre to push what he really wants to talk about, which is all his philosophisizings.

So for all the crap sometimes people think of genre as (and I have been guilty of this on occasion), genre isn't always just brain candy. Though mystery thrillers are certainly part of the fun.

1 drops:

vivian said...

Good god, angelle, The Emperor of Ocean Park is more than 650 pages long! I bought it anyway...tell your mom it's all her fault...besides, I need something to read on the plane to Cincinnati Saturday, and back Tuesday...my local B&N shelves it under fiction, btw, not mysteries.

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