Stranger Danger (A Fumble-Fingered Twofer Book Review)

I’m a klutz with my touch screen. This is third time I’ve been scrolling through the library catalog online and accidentally checked out a book with the same or similar title as the one I was actually going for.

It’s been mostly good. The first time, I wanted The Last Detective by Robert Crais and discovered the talented British mystery writer Peter Lovesey when I clumsily checked out his novel by the same name. The second time, I was after Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and accidentally got James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes and – bonaventura! – stumbled onto what might be my new favourite series.

There was no such serendipity this time with the accidental book, but I liked my original choice, a highbrow, classic work. I feel accomplished and a bit smarter now.

The book I was after:

The StrangerThe Stranger by Albert Camus

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: classic, literature-with-a-capital-l, philosophy, translated-to-english

It occurs to me that this would have been a mind-blowing read back when I still got stoned. If you partake, you might want to blaze up a fattie before you start reading.

So, the basic plot is this guy’s mother dies, and then he kills somebody else for no reason, and he feels nothing. The prosecutor is expounding on the narrator’s heinous crime and his utter lack of a soul, and our narrator is — bored.

The plot is a vehicle for some pretty deep stuff, a big surprise with its deceptively simple writing and its brevity. I read the whole thing in one day, a work day, on the metro to my office and home again. I’m still thinking about it and probably will be for awhile.

I decided I was an existentialist for a year or so when I was a teenager, mainly because I thought it sounded cool. While I don’t disregard it completely now, it’s been mooshed together with some other tenets to create my unique Heinz 57 (and thoroughly heathen but hey, it works for me) belief system. As much as I see the principles of living authentically (which phrase has become so overused by 2016 that it’s laughably trite) and being the architect of whatever meaning one’s own life has, I also get that our lives can just as easily mean what other people interpret them to mean and have nothing to do with us at all.

Black? Or white? Gray is not in this palette. Dichotomies abound.

Or maybe Meursault had the meaning of life nailed all along: It doesn’t matter.

New words:

Asphodel: White -flowered plant of the lily family; also said to be an immortal plant growing in the Elysian Fields

My accidental check-out, not so much.

The StrangerThe Stranger by Harlan Coben

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Bookshelves: abandoned, mystery, thriller, ugh

“Adam put on his pajamas, head spinning at the realization that his wife had faked her last pregnancy. Adam’s pajamas were blue and white striped, but Corinne’s were red paisley. Corinne was one of the few women who didn’t like fancy lingerie, opting for men’s pajamas instead, but she and Adam had very divergent tastes beyond that. Corinne’s pajamas were hanging from the set of hooks mounted on the back of the door. They’d found the hooks while shopping together for pajamas in Bed Bath & Beyond. Why would she lie to him about being pregnant? And how did that stranger at the lacrosse meeting know?”

I made that up, it’s not an actual excerpt, but you get the idea. I was intrigued by the story as it started, but was turned off by the telling instead of showing me what upper-middle-class paragons make up this family, with its SUV and a computer in every room and trendy sports and aw-shucks-boys-will-be-boys good-student, star-athlete teenage sons. It reads like an early draft that needed another trip or two past an editor. Other reviewers have noted that this was a poor showing by an author they usually like, but I’m not sure I’ll ever try any other of Coben’s books after this one.

Fortunately, today is one of the days when I didn’t forget my Kindle, so I have dozens of backup books with me. I usually enjoy mystery-thrillers but I’m abandoning this one midway through Chapter 4.

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Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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