Friday, March 12, 2010

What makes a novel worth reading?, Part II

I made a post two months ago called What makes a novel worth reading? about two lines from John Lawton's A Little White Death.

Here's another such bit, this time from Jo Nesbø's The Snowman. Harry Hole and his colleagues are discussing a character who has been seen near the notorious Hotel Leon:
"They have small rooms which are officially hired out by the day, but in practice on an hourly basis. Black money. Customers don't exactly ask for a receipt. But the hotel owner, who earns the most, is white."

... Skarre grinned at Hagen. "Strange that Bergen Sexual Offences Unit should suddenly be so well up on Oslo brothels."

"They're the same everywhere," Katrine said. "Want a bet on anything I said?"

"The owner's a Paki," Skarre said. "Two hundred kronerooneys."


"OK," Harry said, clapping his hands. "What are we sitting here for?"

The owner of the Leon Hotel was Børtje Hansen, from Solør, in the east, with skin as greyish white as the slush the so-called guests brought in on their shoes ...
© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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Blogger Loren Eaton said...

One of the things that keeps me reading is when an author handles some particular area of the fundamentals well. For example, I just finished Motherless Brooklyn, crime fiction that's light on the crime but really, really good at developing character.

March 12, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. I just read your discussion of the book, and I'll be curious to see that Lethem does with the central character. You invoked the words realistic and grotesque, I think. Let's see how the two co-exist.

March 12, 2010  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

It's a curious balancing act, and Lethem does a pretty good job. Here's part of the first paragraph for your reading pleasure:

[The words in my head are] an invisible army on a peacekeeping mission, a peaceable horde. They mean no harm. They placate, interpret, massage. Everywhere they're smoothing down imperfections, putting hairs in place, putting ducks in a row, replacing divots. Counting and polishing the silver. Patting old ladies gently on the behind, eliciting a giggle. Only -- here's the rub -- when they find too much perfection, when the surface is already buffed smooth, the ducks already orderly, the old ladies complacent, then my little army rebels, breaks into the stores. Reality needs a prick here and there, the carpet needs a flaw. My words begin plucking at threads nervously, seeking purchase, a weak point, a vulnerable ear. That's when it comes, the urge to shout in the church, the nursery, the crowded movie house. It's an itch at first. Inconsequential. But that itch is soon a torrent behind a straining dam. Noah's flood. That itch is my whole life. Here it comes now. Cover your ears. Build yourself an ark.

March 12, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Perhaps under the influence of movies, I'm way of a protragonist who has a handricap of any kind. On the other hand, Lethem appears to have a real interest in crime fiction. He wrote the preface to that photo book on L.A. as seen through Raymond Chandler's eyes.

March 12, 2010  

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