first, i want to remind you, my blog-friends, that my new mystery eloquent corpse can be purchased directly from the printer lulu. com. it will not be in the stores for a while because of a technical glitch with the bar code. it can also be purchased from amazon. com.
i started a post about peter hoeg's the quiet girl, a few days ago, when suddenly the computer ripped the post from under my fingers, which is, i suppose, a response to the pseudo philosophical mysticism i had just absorbed.
i read the book for two reasons. hoeg is the author of the excellent smilla's sense of snow, 1993. and the wall street journal gave the quiet girl a good review. now that i look back at the wsj's review, i notice some warning words that i should have taken more seriously: "a difficult novel, in its way," "busy plot," "strains under its own weight," for example.
kasper, the chief protagonist, hears more and better than any the other characters in this book who also have secret powers (his girl friend stina is a danish superwoman). kasper hears the sound of eleven young children quietly at play, "and at the same time it was much too intense, blew around him like a strong wind; it would have reached the spectators in the back row." he explains, "nature usually has a dry sound because of perpendicular surfaces. in nature there is no lateral fraction, no sound energy from the lateral plane."
many of the sounds are related to specific composers and even to specific works which the average reader might not be able to call immediately to mind. hoeg is good about using these specific analogies, but for this reader the references to music and musicians sometimes got in the way: goldberg variations, weber, bach often (especially the toccata in d minor), wagner, bells from grundtvig and other churches, mozart and mozart's last symphony, etc. these references interrupted the story flow while i tried to remember (often vainly) which section of which symphony he was talking about.
but i kept at it because after a while i wanted to know the secret of the quiet girl. i, the reader, became the detective. it reminded me of reading kazuo ishiguro's never let me go, a far superior book where again the reader is also the detective. if novels are a form of moral laboratory, ishiguro is the one who brings up serious ethical problems that we face today. he is able to hold and entertain his reader while he does so, subtly at first, then whamo. throughout the process, thinking becomes part of our discovery. i believe that both authors are asking what does it mean to be human. by abstaining from intellectual and stylistic gimmicks, ishiguro does a better job. my eloquent corpse, on the other hand, is not a philosphical novel. it is instead a fun read.