Correction of Drift: A Novel in Stories by Pamela Ryder

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About the Crime of the Century! The Lindbergh Baby kidnapping! Aren’t you interested in the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping?!?

extremely beautiful and attentive writing in this short story collection (billed as “a novel in stories”) sometimes stilted due to the iconic nature of its subject, written around the kidnapping and murder of the then Most Famous Couple’s firstborn.

[which, maybe today, would be the equivalent of shiloh pitt. pause to imagine the parallel sound and fury.]

precise and sustained attention to detail. the opening chapter has the layered density of absalom absalom. what’s most cool is the atmosphere achieved of depression-era america. it’s in her verb choice. not just the repeating of archaic brand names and gone places, but those acts and habits that people used to do and now do no longer…

but part of the challenge i think of writing this type of historical novel is getting away from the textbook narrative. it’s the somewhat contradictory act of hanging your book on the peg of history but making a reader forget that this is capital H History and rendering a more lowercase h personal history… so i liked the stories best that dealt with the more minor characters–the maid, the wife of the kidnapper bruno hauptmann character–where there was room for the author to move outside the iconic. in these chapters Ryder allowed herself to imagine interior lives, pasts, and the narrative gets more momentum going. in fact the real pleasure of the book for me was simply in fully entering german-american immigrant life in 1930s nyc. in contrast, in the chapters devoted to lindbergh and his wife, the two are somewhat reduced to their roles of action hero and socialite, and we’re left, somewhat stalled, at the surface of history.

(plus, since roth’s THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA i’m sort of ruined, unable to really see lucky lindy as anything more than a fascist antisemite, a george W prototype–and this aspect of the guy interestingly comes up zilch in the book.)

still, an enormous care is taken with the writing, always elegant, never purple and truly gorgeous at times. one to watch.

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