jean echenoz


refashioning the detective narrative into something more art-y evidently is such a tempting strategy perhaps it’s a trap. note the murder puzzles of echenoz’s house-mate at les editions de minuit, robbe-grillet. or robert coover’s recent deconstruction of noir or pynchon’s neon vices or lethem’s genre mashups or haruki murakami’s career-long channeling of chandler… even bolaño wants to be a homicide cop in his next life… that ongoing and probably easily extended list suggests there’s not only something fashionable about this trope-slumming but that the mystery narrative is somehow deeply fundamental to the novel form. its searcher protagonists and elusive, ineffable obscure objects of desire might arguably be the nucleobases of the novel’s DNA.

reading three echenoz in a row — BIG BLONDES, I AM GONE, and CHEROKEE — made that thought pop again to mind as echenoz displays an intimate and scientific knowledge of the genre’s workings. he also does something that feels unique with it, stripping almost everything out — certainly as much interiority as he can — and leaving only plot. not that these are zippy momentum-gathering page turners — rather they’re drôle collages of event where a thousand peculiar items are glued together with comedic and/or convenient coincidence. cubist mysteries of fractured planes, they’re fun reads with, when the pieces come together at the end, an almost guaranteed mild let-down (maybe even a purposeful, subversive one). oddly addictive.

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