Saturday, July 18, 2009

Words by Paul Auster, sets by Magritte (Books - The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry)

I have just begun Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection, billed as an existential mystery and structured, as the title announces, as a manual with each chapter devoted to a pertinent topic such as shadowing, evidence, clues, and so on. The narrative voice is somewhat formal, giving the book a Dickensian air. It opens:
Lest details be mistaken for clues, note that Mr. Charles Unwin, lifetime resident of this city, rode his bicycle to work every day, even when it was raining. He had contrived a method to keep his umbrella open while pedaling, by hooking the umbrella's handle around the bicycle's handlebar. This method made the bicycle less maneuverable and reduced the scope of Unwin's vision, but if his daily schedule was to accommodate an unofficial trip to Central Terminal for unofficial reasons, then certain risks were to be expected.
and yet, the structure lends the book a playfulness. I'm not sure if the book is in the YA genre or not (not that it matters and probably not) but the cleverness of voice sets that tone, even if the content suggests otherwise. Think Paul Auster's subject matter, Daniel Handler's cleverness, with sets by Magritte. It's funny how beginning to read something I find myself trying to compare a book to something else, but our brains seem to be structured to categorize our knowledge. The book this reminds me most of is Sebastian Beaumont's Thirteen, which I loved, but there I go with comparisons again - perhaps it would be safe to say that this is pure Jedediah Berry and leave it at that.

1 comment:

C. B. James said...

I'm intrigued. I look forward to your review.

I love the cover of this book.