The non-obvious worth pursuing

In Current reading, Drafts, Music, Revision on April 19, 2015 at 7:24 am

The dreamer was in a police station, where she had tried to make her point about something, to no avail. They weren’t detaining her. She was free to go, and started packing up personal effects. She sang to herself, not loud, something to do while she prepared to leave. “I found my thrill on Blueberry Hill, on Blueberry Hill, when I found you, the moon stood still on Blueberry Hill”, and so on.

Yesterday, on the way back from buying expensive kibbles for the dog, I bought the latest Fred Vargas at La Maison de la Presse. A few steps further, I sat on a bench in front of City Hall, and started reading Temps Glaciaires, and finished the book at home. This is Vargas’ nineteenth or twentieth published title; if someone with no money to throw around can drop twenty euro to read through her latest, that says something. Personally, I’m not so much taken by the plots as I am by the way she writes and by the cast of characters that show up in all of her novels: commissaire Adamsberg whose approach to criminal investigation reminds me of the dreamer mentioned in the first paragraph above. His mind strays to the wispy things, the ones to which no one else pays attention. His mind floats between two levels all the time, while the encyclopedic mind of his assistant, Danglard, provides facts, factoids, dates and such.

There’s always a resolution, of course – a criminal unmasked, an explanation to all the mayhem. The woman hasn’t been published twenty times because she left the reader dangling in the wind. But that’s neither here nor there, this morning. I’m not Fred Vargas; the job’s already taken. I’ve never been published, and have no reason to believe I will be, some day.

I opened the three doors on my red bookcase this morning, in search of a specific title. By one of those coincidences life comes up with at times, a sheet of paper fluttered out from each one: three lists of queries I kept after disposing of the others. Date sent, date rejected, name of agency and agent, comments, if any. One of the agent’s standard rejection forms had the merit of clarity. Instead of the usual wiggly or meaningless formula, his stated that this was nothing he wished to work with. Point duly taken, no ambiguity there.

No, what mattered most to me in reading Fred Vargas yesterday was the craftsmanship, of course, and the way in which she deliberately sets her characters out to sea, deep into the heart of failure. Their job being to make it back to shore with something gained, and something lost.

Another recurring character in Vargas’ books: Adamsberg’s neighbor, Lucio. While still a child in Spain, Lucio lost an arm during the bombings. Just before the bomb carried off his arm, Lucio had been stung by a spider. He was about to scratch the itch. Decades later, the arm is gone but the itch remains.


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