Another Recommendation - The Geographer's Library
9/13/2005 09:57:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Just finished this book. Picked it up on a whim at the library. Debut novel from Jon Fasman.

from a Washington Post review on Amazon:

The Geographer's Library, by Jon Fasman, absolutely falls into the category of the arcane thriller, but it is a much more interesting and creative book than many of those making up the marketing wave on which it will no doubt attempt to ride. Yes, the story features obscure books in forgotten tongues, secret brotherhoods, exotic locales and clever puzzles, but Fasman comes across as a novelist genuinely interested in unraveling the convention of the thriller, and he gives his tale a delightfully and successfully postmodern flavor. And rather than presenting obscure knowledge as valuable only because it gets you things, he is far more interested in showing how physical things lead to knowledge.

The book contains two primary narratives -- one conventional, the other far less so. The first revolves around Paul Tomm, a recent college graduate who has landed a job as a reporter at a weekly newspaper in a small and depressingly stagnant New England town. Tomm is clever and charismatic, though largely devoid of ambition until one of the locals, an elderly Estonian immigrant, dies and Tomm is charged with writing the obituary. The dead man turns out to be Jaan Pühapäev, an aloof professor from the same prestigious Connecticut university that Tomm himself attended. With the help of another former professor -- as polished, unhurried and generous with his time as only fictional academics can be -- and the professor's policeman nephew -- as wise-cracking, unhurried and generous with his time as only fictional policemen can be -- Tomm sets out to reveal the genuinely bizarre truth of Pühapäev's identity and the cause of his mysterious death. You know, after all, that when the town coroner announces that there's something strange about the body, but dies before he can tell anyone the specifics, there's something going on. As it happens, there's quite a lot going on, including a menacing Albanian, decayed body parts left hammered to doors and a beautiful woman with a secret, but in Fasman's capable hands these conventions have the kind of narrative power that keeps the story from feeling trite and contrived.

The other aspect of The Geographer's Library is a collection of interlinked tales that spans several centuries, beginning with medieval Iran and ending in more modern times and roaming through various parts of the former Soviet Union. Each of these sections, told with a variety of distinctive voices and tones, fixates on a particular artifact -- a key, a flute, a deck of cards -- with unique properties and sought by determined and ruthless agents. Fasman's method here approaches David Mitchell territory (Cloud Atlas, Ghostwritten), and if he lacks Mitchell's powerful skill in hopping seamlessly from character to character, he does, ultimately, make clear how these different objects and stories come together.

Worth taking out from the library or purchasing and sharing. Anyone else have any other ideas for books? Read this one in a couple days and I am itching for another good book. Anyone out there read Codex?
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1 comments:

On 3:46 AM , Anonymous said...

Ha! I thought you meant The Codex by Preston - didn't like that one as much as better Preston/Child books. This Codex, I don't know...