Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't Look Back, Gene Wolfe short stories

I actually started Karin Fossum's Don't Look Back more than a month ago, but library returns intervened, so I finally finished it over Pesach.  Scandinavian thrillers are the new big thing in the publishing world, but so far I haven't been super impressed.  Jar City was OK, but not enough to interest me further in that series, and I thought the two Jo Nesbo books were more lightweight than they pretended.

Don't Look Back, on the other hand, doesn't try to be a social commentary; instead it's a simple procedural, and it succeeds very well.  Fossum does a great job at keeping the story focused on her detectives' probing into the life of the murdered girl at the heart of the story.  There's an air of despair around the edges of the novel (one minor character commits suicide, it seems another may be chased out of town), and, in their own way, these small pieces end up contributing more to the atmosphere of the novel than the more heavy-handed attempts of Fossum's peers.

I finished the Gene Wolfe retrospective over Pesach as well.  Toward the end, his stories get more elliptical, though not necessarily less successful.  "The Tree is my Hat," for example, is horrifying, even though I'd be surprised if I understood even a fraction of Wolfe's references.  I think the secret to enjoying some of these stories is to just accept that there's a lot there to pick up, and not worry about getting all the references.

Still continuing with War and Peace, might hit the halfway mark soon...

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