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Another fine mess

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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
The Bridge of Sighs - Olen Steinhauer The plotting's not full of great surprise or even the crafty precision of certain genre technicians... it seems a bit undercooked. But everything else about this novel--its rich sense of place, and equally fine prose style, and its phenomenal sense of character (extending generously into the benches, so that even minor walk-on roles get finely, flintily etched)--is dazzling.

I loved Steinhauer's recent The Tourist, which deployed a nifty knotted narrative structure to enact an equally sneaky, tricky weave of ethical uncertainty. It was a great, sly, entirely serious and utterly enjoyable iteration of the spy thriller after 9/11. So I decided to head back and see the earlier sequence of novels set in an imagined Eastern Bloc nation at the ass- or armpit-edges of post-WWII Soviet Russia. Well worth the walk-back, and I am excited to read my way up from book to book, as he daisy-chains with protagonists drawn from the sidelines of each prior novel, a Yoknatawphan oomph.

If I had more energy I might undertake a contrast between the periods Steinhauer artfully maps, the (again sly) intriguing familiarity evoked in the respective paranoid styles of the totalitarian state and the anti-terrorist democracy... but maybe with the next in the series. You can enjoy the novel even if you tamp down such uncanny echoes and hauntings.