by uzwi

I’m trying to read an old detective story I gave up on a few years ago, & there are so many extended cross-connected families, so many characters not all that well distinguished from one another, just names, names & more names, that I can’t actually follow it. Apart from the narrator & his wife & the villain of the piece, I rarely know who’s in a scene & I care so little about most of them that I can’t be bothered to backtrack and find out. Some of this has nothing to do with the writing: it’s more that it’s a complicated plot about genes, family trees, heritability & second or third cousins, & I’ve never been interested in any of that. I’m too lazy to care who’s connected to whom. & if–as some sources used to suggest–the development of human intelligence is predicated on an evolutionary need to keep track of extended family relations, then I haven’t the intelligence either. I wonder if it’s one of the reasons I hate categories, databases, creative writing software and–especially–wiring looms? This book I’m reading is a bit weird on motive, too. Because he’s a biographer, with limited sources of information about the lived life of his cold-case subjects, the narrator is constantly speculating on why people did things he can’t even be sure they did, in a droning voice that gets into your head & goes on & on until you realise his own “character” (that is, the combination of “characteristics” the novelist needs him to possess so that the plot can function) forces him to make & depend on similar completely speculative assumptions even about living people he knows intimately. This leads him to simple, constantly self-qualifying conclusions about his wife, people in the street, everyone dead or alive. I’ve got further with the book than I did last time, but I struggle when the author congratulates himself, via his sock-puppet, on “building” a character from the past. He hasn’t. By now, I am in a fog about the entire concept of character. I’ve already forgotten which of the sisters Alice was, or who testified that they passed whom on Manderly’s central staircase at 3am that fatal night in 1940. I think I’m right that portly Anthony is the central suspect, although I can’t recall how he’s related to the beautiful but undependable Elizabeth.