Monday, January 8, 2018

Stories of Life, Canada Style

Dear Life: StoriesDear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is Winesburg, Ohio for Canada.

I hesitated to use that analogy, because Ohioans and Midwesterners in general are so very Canadian it just seemed redundant. However, in Dear Life Alice Munro has written the same kind of truly reflective snippets of life that made Sherwood Anderson's work the well-respected, and frankly, forgettable novel it is.

Stories about everyday events and the less-than-dramatic moments of an average joe's average day do not enthrall me. I do, however, enjoy really well-crafted prose that "gets to the heart of the matter" and that's what we have here. Munro has presented us with a piece of work that flows with the ease of an ancient, flat river. Any turbulence is under the surface. You may not be swept away, but you will be transported comfortably and carefully to an inevitable conclusion.

I will not remember these stories. They tired me with their tedium. But I respect the hell of out the accomplishment that is Dear Life.

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A Detective Fiction Forerunner

Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe, #1)Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm givin' this sucka three stars, seeee?! Ya wanna make somethin' of it, tough guy?...Yeah, that's what I thought.

Actually, Fre-de-Lance by Rex Stout is more cerebral than tough-guy as far as detective fiction goes. Oh sure, there's some strong-arm scenes and a line like "Don't try no funny stuff, ya got me pal-y?" wouldn't be out of place here. However, as many of those you find, you'll discover just as many classical allusions and erudite quotables.

This is in great part due to the eccentric genius Nero Wolfe, who owns and operates the detective agency. However, he is too corpulent and immobile to be the true hero of the story. That mantle rests upon the able shoulders of regular good guy Archie Goodwin, the man on the street, the guy who gets the job done. Archie narrates the story and his witty one-liners and occasional snark are a great joy to read.

One of the early ones in the detective genre, Fer-de-Lance leaves the reader guessing who killed who and why. Very solid red herrings and perplexing twists abound. This book will satiate the mystery lover.

This why only three stars? Well, as one of the longer books in the Wolfe series, Fer-de-Lance lumbers along at a slower pace than necessary, adding more pages than are probably needed to tell this tale. But hey, this was back when Stout was just starting out and you can hardly be surprised when a new writer goes long. Plus, this being one of the early detective stories, he didn't have down pat the bebop-beat timing and double-time swinging pace that hardboiled detective fiction would eventually be known for.

Definitely worth giving it a shot!

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