I have very mixed feelings about this book. Krakauer is a nearly flawless writer, whose prose presents vivid imagery and deep feeling. McCandless, the subject of the book, is in himself, deeply depressing. It seems at almost every turn, McCandless choose solitude and deeper isolation from his fellow humans, and almost no one, as seen in this story, tries to stop him. McCandless is presented as a man of deep feeling and intense emotion, but rather than taking that energy and making it a force for good, he chooses the solitude that eventually leads to his death. Krakauer cannot be faulted for his style, although I have read criticism of his factual merit, which I cannot comment on. But McCandless strikes me as being deeply depressed, and well, it kills him in the end. I think McCandless’ life could have been a positive force had he engaged with the world rather than shunning it. The memory of that still makes me sad. So if that’s the sort of reading that will cause you to lose sleep, skip this book. If not, and you are interested still, carry on. Like I said, Krakauer’s writing is nearly faultless in execution.
I am happy to announce the return of the “No Plot Spoiler Book Reviews.” My goal is to review three books by the same author each week that I am able to spare the time for it. In general, I will not give away any more details than one can find in the first chapter, or on the back cover blurb. There will though be general comments about the author’s writing style, and the nature of the work itself. The following entry about “Holy Disorders,” by Edmund Crispin, published in 1945 will serve as an excellent example.
“Holy Disorders,” by Edmund Crispin, published in 1945, is the second book in the Professor Fen series of detective novels. While “Holy Disorders” is the second in the series of 9 novels and several short stories; it is the first novel that I read. I am rather glad about this fact as I think had I read “The Case of the Gilded Fly” first; I might not have carried on with the series. But I wouldn’t let that put you off. Almost every novelist’s first book is disappointing in some way or another.
While 1945 came to a close, it was obvious that Britain and the Allies would win the European Theater conflict of World War II; it was not obvious in previous years, particularly not during the Battle of Britain, which is the timeframe of the novel, set in a northern cathedral town.
One of the main characteristics of the Professor Fen novels is that Fen figures who the murder, or murders are fairly quickly, but is always frustrated in his search for proof of his conclusions. In this novel, which is a delightfully well-constructed locked room mystery, Fen’s conclusion about the murder’s identity rests primarily on a chance comment made by the murder, the sort of detail that had the person not been the murder, they never should have known. I’ll simply say that I caught one of these details, and missed several others. Fen also is the original prototype of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau sort of character, although he certainly is nothing of the sort. This point is obvious to the reader as well as Fen’s friends, but not always obvious to other characters in the novel.
(As a general note, I will always put the Amazon.com blurbs last, as I’ve often found over the years that they rather spoil aspects of the plot of books. So if you’re hypersensitive to that sort of thing, than don’t read any further.)
Eccentric Oxford professor Gervase Fen remains as maddeningly childish as ever, still deliciously fond of his own wit and erudition. He’s equally fond of amateur sleuthing, so the murder of the cathedral organist is a cause for glee. Could the fellow have fallen afoul of a nest of German spies or of the local coven of witches, ominously rumoured to have been practicing since the 17th century? Tracking down the answer pleases Fen immensely only the reader will have a better time.
“A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,” by Jonathan Swift is one of the most enduring pieces of economic and political satire in the English language. This piece always makes for a lively class discussion, marking it as one of the true highlights of the term. It is almost as good as the stunned silence that has greeted Wendell Potter for the list six years.
“A Modest Proposal,” by Jonathan Swift