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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
Innocent - Scott Turow Turow does a dandy job--despite this being a direct sequel to his first novel, the tricky and entertaining Presumed Innocent--never giving away too many of the major twists. Good on him.

Turow's attention to the slippery ambiguity of our legal system is again meticulously, mesmerizingly deployed for narrative hijinks. His occasionally-florid prose again at times invites some fascinating self-conscious reflections on the nature of guilt, desire, self-righteousness, shame, and innocence -- I think it's a signal accomplishment that he returns to a slew of characters previously used and yet plucks a number of new(ish) tunes that continue to reflect a deep-seated recognition that the most confounding mystery is not method but motive. What blew me away in the first book is that, despite first-person narration, I was unsure of what the character had done -- which reflects, I think, Turow's sharp-eyed observations of human nature.

But I sometimes think he writes better character than internal narration; he errs, particularly in this novel(?), on the side of more telling. These fascinating characters could probably think less--or at least less explicitly--about their motives and the narrative arc would be even more compelling; I really get his characters, get their knotted desires to do the right thing and the temptations that blur their vision of that thing. I'd almost rather watch them, see the implications of such confusion, rather than so persistent a spelling-out of that confusion.

But I may be less inclined to appreciate the existential here because the plotting seems so self-consciously twisty. That first novel blows everyone away with its last-minute shuffling of our understanding, and ever since Turow's labored under a readerly obsession with twists. (The same woes afflict M. Night Shyamalan.) This book seems so carefully plotted that you can almost see the wires and stage-directions everywhere, and this undercuts the psychological noodling Turow seems to enjoy even more. (When you're waiting for big twists, even if they're good ones the story seems to boil down to "and then" and leave less room for other kinds of play. And this may be less Turow's fault than my own habits as a reader.)