while reading sue grafton's latest kinsey milhone mystery, u is for undertow, i also re-read j.d. salinger's 'franny' of franny and zooey.
'franny' takes place in the 50s and was actually written at that time. undertow takes place in the 60s and 80s and was published in 2009. since ms. grafton says it takes her two years to write a novel, that still makes it a contemporary novel. salinger is closer in mood to his time, but is that because he is a better writer or simply because that's when he's writing, that's what he knows?
'franny' first appeared in the 50s as a short story in the new yorker. it is now the first part of a novel about the fictive glass family. although woven into the novel, it stands beautifully and proudly alone. it is a sensitive, sympathetic portrait of a girl on the verge of a nervous breakdown. the story (meeting her boyfriend for a weekend) and settings (a railroad station, then a restaurant that's supposed to impress her) are simple. the details and insight are not. the aura of mysticism is vivid.
in another world, grafton has been showing us the abc's of mysteries for years. her newest u is for undertowis different from the earlier novels that started, by the way, with her fantasies of killing her ex-husband. great motivation for writing. the detective kinsey milhone, who grafton bases on herself, is now 38, still lives alone, has her landlord and baker vaguely looking after her (and she him), but there are some differences. the two main differences so far in my reading are the time line and the crime. the time goes back and forth between the 1960s and the 1980s. the reader knows that eventually the stories will come together. grafton gives some good hints about the times she is trying to portray. for example, my favorite is the irish setter named goldie hawn, not a name that would be used today. the other shift in focus is on the crime, which inhabits a kind of grey area between good and evil. more about this later.