saraht: "...legwork" (Default)
[personal profile] saraht posting in [community profile] milk_and_orchids
Too Many Cooks is one of my favorite Nero Wolfe novels, both for the Archie-and-Wolfe show and for the period-piece details. But where to begin!

This book is set in Virginia in the 1930s, at a resort largely staffed by black servants. There's hardly a race or ethnicity that doesn't get insulted. It's relatively easy to laugh off Archie's remarks about excitable dagoes, but the fact is, you don't have to go very far into TMC before you're slapped in the eye with "nigger" (never used by Wolfe or Archie, by the way). I can't argue with anyone who can't enjoy this book because of these issues. I understand and respect that position fully. But I do think Stout is fairly progressive for 1938, when TMC was published. Black characters are shown to be competent at their trades and, along with the Asian character, get to speak for themselves about the uncomfortable position they hold in society. Wolfe goes out of his way to acknowledge the skill of the black characters and to endorse their complaints about the injustice to which they are subjected (he even alludes to lynchings as deplorable). Stout is careful to distinguish between Wolfe's and Archie's attitudes and the more virulent or provincial racism of the Southern characters. Wolfe is a standard-issue paternalistic liberal, but well-meaning. Archie is considerably less progressive in his language (he throws around "shines" and "smokes" and "pickaninnies," as well as "Jap"), but he doesn't display any particular animus towards individual black characters. I think Stout regards Archie's less-progressive thinking not as a sign of bad moral character, but rather as a sign of his lack of sophistication and worldliness compared to Wolfe. We look at it differently now, but again…1938. As I said, it's really up to the individual reader whether she wants to (or can) read past the racism in TMC, but I don't see malice in it as much as the reflection of structural racisms.

To me, TMC seems like the first fully-realized Wolfe novel as we have come to recognize them. While, of course, there is backstory among the suspects, the mystery doesn't hinge on lengthy, Study in Scarlet-style excursions into the past and events that happened before the client was born (I'm looking at you, Red Box and Rubber Band). Wolfe's speeches, and the narration, are also generally less purple and pompous. On the other hand, the solution of the mystery itself, or at least a very strong indication in the correct direction, is actually provided through judiciously-scattered clues, which can't be said of all the later books. I still find the reveal a little less than satisfying, since, honestly, who cares about Liggett, and the deck feels stacked against Dina Laszio, but what can you do.

What makes TMC so charming to me is Stout's loving portrait of his crew of chefs. They're all passionate, high-strung elitists of one kind or another, but they're also completely dedicated to what Wolfe calls "the subtlest and the kindliest of the arts." You have to admire Stout's vision of a world where eccentric and temperamental geniuses reign supreme in their spheres (like Wolfe in his). I think this, more than anything, struck me when I was reading the books as a child--this dream of a New York City where, if you were smart enough, you could arrange to live a supremely independent life devoted to the cultivation of your own tastes, regulated almost exclusively by your own sense of decency and obligation. I'm not quite there yet, but I can't deny it had an effect on my life.

And, of course, the book is funny as hell. From the opening sequence, when Archie describes the impending need to help Wolfe get undressed on the train in high-flown Victorian language, to the script-reading sequence where Stout shows Wolfe and Archie as the most fidgety and stubborn married couple ever through the almost exclusive use of dialogue, to the ending, where Archie deftly shoves the goofy young lovers together, TMC is a hoot. Stout is very fond of the humorous high-low contrast, and he handles it very well throughout TMC.

This is, I believe, the first time we see Marko Vukcic in person. He's inserted naturally and is believable as a boyhood friend of Wolfe, no easy thing to pull off. It's the crankiness and the outsize personality that makes me believe in it. Of course Wolfe spends most of the book fighting with him, but what else would you expect? There isn't too much of the other recurring characters, except the usual spot of competence from Saul Panzer, who appears briefly.

As for women, Wolfe declares that he's not immune to women, but has merely been "forced to cultivate" an appearance of immunity to them. To me, this indicates he is perfectly well aware of their charms and probably has had many a romantic (in either sense) impulse in his day, but finds those kinds of entanglements incompatible with his chosen way of life. I suppose Constanza Berin and Dina Laszio represent the range of perils that can result from chasing women, with poor Barry Tolman's dignity gone for much of the book as he pines for Constanza and Dina's plotting to have her husband murdered.

It should be noted that Wolfe is, if not a locavore, at least acutely conscious of the role that the production of the ingredients plays in cooking. Your mouth waters when he reads his description of peanut-fed hams. In this, I think Stout is not so much incredibly forward-thinking as sophisticated for his time--I think it was WWII and its aftermath that saw the rise of full-scale industrial agriculture and all the culinary nastiness it entails. Stout sticks to his approach, though (think of "Murder is Corny," published in 1964). Still, few of the items on Wolfe's menu would be served to gourmands today; turkey is certainly no longer regarded as a particular delicacy. (It would probably be replaced by pig of some sort.)

Speaking of location, poor Archie is a fish out of water most of the time. His unflattering comparison "in terms of excitement" between what must be a gorgeous resort with "Times Square or Yankee Stadium" is the sort of New York chauvinism that only those of us who have migrated from the Midwest to the city can truly espouse. Kanawha Spa is one of the most remote spots he ever gets to in the course of the series--I can only think of Montenegro (of course) and California in Murder by the Book as further. Train travel between NYC and the South was clearly a lot nicer then than it is now. Of course, one of the worst parts of travel is that Archie isn't able to be sure that when he comes back, Wolfe will be where he left him!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 08:16 am (UTC)
liviapenn: the spirit and a friend look on in shock (dc: OH FRANK MILLER NO.)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
Stout is careful to distinguish between Wolfe's and Archie's attitudes and the more virulent or provincial racism of the Southern characters.

I have to say, as nice as it is that Archie isn't AS racist as the stereotypical pre-WWII racist West Virginia sheriff, as a way of making a protagonist's attitudes sympathetic, "...totally less racist than a stereotypical pre-WWII racist West Virginia sheriff" is not exactly setting the bar high.

Re: Wolfe's interactions with the spa staff-- yeah, it's paternalistic, but it's interesting too in that Stout has Paul Whipple totally undercut Wolfe while he's giving his lecture-- like, ok, I can think of several examples from comics/movies/etc. of the trope where, you know, "If only black people wouldn't be so angry/resentful/militant/whatever, racism would be solved," where a white protagonist/hero gets to show how informed and non-racist they they are by lecturing a black character about how they should just change their attitude, because that's the Real Problem. [1] And that totally happens here with Wolfe and the Kanawha Spa staff, except that Paul Whipple objects in the middle of Wolfe's Big Impressive Appeal To Everyone's Common Humanity and points out that Wolfe is actually, factually *wrong*-- the staff members aren't keeping silent because they're protecting a fellow black man, they're keeping silent because they know that the man Lio Coyne saw *wasn't* black, but a white guy in blackface, and they have (correctly) predicted that getting involved in this murder would result in being "bullied, badgered, abused, deprived of freedom, persecuted," as Wolfe puts it later.

Wolfe can hardly condemn a man for deciding to passively withhold information from police because it might personally inconvenience him, restrict his movements, etc., to get involved in a murder investigation-- he does exactly that himself in too many books to count, including *this one!* The only reason he even lifts a finger to investigate Laszio's death is because his not doing so looks bad for Marko.

So anyway, as much as I flinch at the whole "Now I will lecture you about what racism REALLY is!!" bit, I do wonder if Stout actually intentionally undercut it because he realized that Wolfe lecturing a group of actual native-born black Americans is ludicrous, or whether it was just sort of a happy(?) accident based on the fact that in a mystery nothing is ever what it seems, so of course if Lio Coyne saw a black man at the door he couldn't actually have *been* black.

(Of couse Wolfe still manages to get in a defensive remark when Paul Whipple points out that Wolfe might not fully comprehend the situation:

Wolfe: ".... you knew if you divulged it you’d be making trouble for yourself."

"Plenty of trouble. You're a northerner--"

"I'm a man, or try to be. ...."
Hah, nice comeback, Wolfe. "What are you talking about? I'm white, I totally have the neutral, unbiased everyman viewpoint.")





[1] like, there is totally a "Lois Lane, Superman's Girlfriend" comic from 1970 where she decides to use Kryptonian technology to experience life as a black person for 24 hours; this is to get the scoop on life in the ghetto in Metropolis, because of course all those mean, *mean* black people won't immediately open up and spill their secrets and treat her like a sister, despite the fact that Lois has totally cared a lot about racism for, like, two whole hours already. So she meets this militant, angry "community organizer" type who gets himself shot while confronting drug dealers, and Lois has to donate blood to save his life, and then turns back to her white self, and is like "Oh no! What if he hates me now 'cause I'm white again!!" And somehow in like 24 pages, the story has completely shifted from "Metropolis has a ghetto and it sucks and Lois is totally going to expose the terrible conditions there," to "If this black guy can't just get over himself and learn to like Lois, there's just no hope for peace in the world!" ... Even Wolfe in 1938 does a *little* better than this, in that his quoting Paul Lawrence Dunbar goes to show that he has *some* tiny amount of common ground with Paul Whipple, as opposed to Lois who is like "...wait, Metropolis has black people?"

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:03 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
Honestly? I wouldn't want to be the Kanawha Spa staff *after* Wolfe is gone. I suspect Whipple in particular did not have a comfortable rest of the summer there.

Well, hopefully Barry Tolman would remember that he *did* give his word to Wolfe about not badgering anybody. But yeah, although he's super-cute when he's playing True Love Gone Awry with Constanza, it's really a toss-up as to whether he'd feel compelled to actively step in, later on, if the sheriff was giving Paul or the other guys a hard time.

Is that what you think? I always assumed that his goal was to clear Berin so that Berin would give him the recipe to saucisse minuit. Wolfe's deep!

Yeah, but this is before they even suspect Berin. The night before they arrest him (or, well, the morning of, at four in the morning) Wolfe really is just refusing to help because it's inconvenient and he's on vacation and if he gets caught up in the case, he might not be able to go home on schedule. Then the next morning they arrest Berin based on Wolfe's tip about the sauces, and after that, yeah, I totally think he had the saucisse minuit thing in mind from minute one. *G*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:27 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
I always figured the 4 a.m. conversation was just him doing Tolman a little favor because Tolman buttered him up (and seemed like a reasonably intelligent, if inexperienced, guy).

Yeah, but also because Tolman pointed out that it does look like he's covering for Marko if he doesn't help. (Although now that I think about it that wasn't really very smart on his part; suppose it *was* Marko, who's to say Wolfe wouldn't mess with evidence/witnesses to point suspicion *away* from his friend, once he's on the case?)

I totally think he had the saucisse minuit thing in mind from minute one.

BUT LIVIA A GUEST IS A JEWEL RESTING ON THE CUSHION OF HOSPITALITY!


Man, and going back to the con thing, that whole story Wolfe tells about how he recognized the genius of saucisse minuit "back in the day" is such fannish-type nerdery. "I'm not one of these hipster fans who just like the next big thing because it's popular!! I liked your sausages BEFORE THEY WERE COOL."

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 12:21 am (UTC)
dorinda: Shot from MST3K short "Mr B. Natural," showing a white boy from the 50s, with "CONFORM!" superimposed several times. (mst_conform)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Re: Wolfe's interactions with the spa staff-- yeah, it's paternalistic, but it's interesting too in that Stout has Paul Whipple totally undercut Wolfe while he's giving his lecture--

Yeah, that's something I appreciated. And also that Whipple doesn't magically change personalities and, as you say, Get Over Himself or Moderate His Tone once faced with the white hero. Wolfe presses the story out of him, but true to his decisions and hard-won coping skills, Whipple still tries to keep the rest of the staff uninvolved--Wolfe has to force that part of the story out as well, and only succeeds because Crabtree and then Moulton are willing to tell him more.

I also appreciated Wolfe's fundamental approach in its lack of specious "colorblindness" (line about "I'm a man, or try to be" notwithstanding)--that rhetoric is still a major go-to today for Nice White People who'd like to erase things. Wolfe doesn't devolve into the racist trope of "AND YOU SEE EVERYONE IS A RACE-NEUTRAL INDIVIDUAL" (which is almost where it seems to be going when he's talking about the different approaches you'd use for Ashley vs. Servan). He instead touches on axes of nationality and "tribal" (which I read as "cultural") differences, and in the end he doesn't try to claim that either "common humanity" or common nationality can trump race, nor does he ignore the existence and influence of systemic racism. He misses a lot of bingo squares that are depressingly common today.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 03:03 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

He misses a lot of bingo squares that are depressingly common today.

Yeah, you can fault it in a lot of ways, but really, how many pop-culture genre novels of 1938, written by white authors for mostly white audiences, included the genius hero giving a lecture about how black American citizens are/were often excluded from the benefits of the individual's contract with society due to systemic racism? I have no idea, but I doubt it was a lot.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 09:57 am (UTC)
liviapenn: Melanie pinches Connor's butt. Caption: Hey Tiger! (dc: connor and melanie (hey tiger))
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
This is, I believe, the first time we see Marko Vukcic in person. He's inserted naturally and is believable as a boyhood friend of Wolfe, no easy thing to pull off. It's the crankiness and the outsize personality that makes me believe in it. Of course Wolfe spends most of the book fighting with him, but what else would you expect? There isn't too much of the other recurring characters, except the usual spot of competence from Saul Panzer, who appears briefly.

I think it's the first time Marko is even *mentioned* in canon, but if you read it out of order you'd never be able to tell. I'm pretty sure I read "Too Many Cooks" assuming Marko was a recurring character. He's totally fully formed, and the way Stout presents him is really casual-- he doesn't over-describe him or have Archie go into a long paragraph of backstory of Everything He Knows About Marko-- he just sort of slips him in under the radar and suddenly it's like he's always been there.

While we're keeping track of Wolfe leaving the house, etc., Archie states here that Marko comes to dinner at Wolfe's once a month, but doesn't ever mention Wolfe visiting Rusterman's (which goes along with what he said in "The Red Box" about never going to restaraunts).

I suppose Constanza Berin and Dina Laszio represent the range of perils that can result from chasing women, with poor Barry Tolman's dignity gone for much of the book as he pines for Constanza and Dina's plotting to have her husband murdered.

One of the interesting things about reading the books in order is that, ok, I've just now realized Constanza is actually the first girl Archie is really, seriously interested in-- to the point of even surprising *himself* at how strong his sudden attraction/desire to possess her is. There have been girls that he's found attractive in previous books, but he's never actually pursued them. But he does at least sort of pursue Constanza Berin. (Which makes it even more interesting that she's also the first (although she definitely won't be the last) *foreign* ingenue in the books. Here's this disconnect again, between the way Archie *says* he feels about Foreigners and the way he actually seems to relate to them in real life. He mentally crossed a woman off in "The Red Box" for being a countess from Prague, but with Constanza Berin, when he finds out she's Catalana, the only thing that worries him is that she might not speak English, and once he finds out that she does, he isn't worried about it at all. (Although being attracted to the daughter doesn't keep him from calling the dad a "dago sausage cook," but, ok, small steps.)

The whole sequence where Archie finds himself getting caveman-ish about Constanza and pulls back is fascinating. So, he notices he's feeling possessive of her, and he logically works it out that if he feels that way, the only thing to do in this situation is legally acquire her, and he doesn't want to do *that*, therefore he must NUKE THE SITE FROM ORBIT (IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE). So he tells her a ridiculous Archie Goodwin Story about being married and having tons of children ("Clarence and Merton and Isabel and Melinda and Patricia" being the important ones. MERTON. Really. Oh Archie.) It just doesn't seem to occur to him that there is any possible middle ground between being a totally platonic big brother type and instant, eternal commitment, except that's not really it, either-- it's just that the instant that *possessiveness* gets involved, Archie doesn't want any part of it.

See also Dina Lazsio: I could see that if Dina Laszio once got you alone and she had her mind on her work and it was raining outdoors, it would take more than a sense of humor to laugh it off. She was way beyond the stage of spilling ginger ale on lawyers. ... I basically just find it completely hilarious that our Man of Action, when he thinks about relating to women in this book, mostly thinks about how to *avoid* getting entangled with them and how to resist their wiles and charms, rather than what you might stereotypically expect, which is the typical sort of horndog hero who is obsessed with *overcoming* female resistance to his charms.

I also find it completely endearing that Archie just CANNOT GET OVER the ginger ale thing. He is astounded at it. He mentions it so many times, basically whenever he sees Constanza: ("Well, God bless my eyes! All with a few spoonfuls of ginger ale!" Etc.) It just astounds him that this sweet, innocent angel of a girl could pull such a trick. *G* Personally, I think I like Constanza Berin best of all the ingenues so far. She sailed Lord Gerley's boat around the cape without a chaperone! <3
Edited Date: 2010-05-09 10:01 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 06:31 pm (UTC)
jest: (orchid)
From: [personal profile] jest
I think it's the first time Marko is even *mentioned* in canon, but if you read it out of order you'd never be able to tell. I'm pretty sure I read "Too Many Cooks" assuming Marko was a recurring character. He's totally fully formed, and the way Stout presents him is really casual-- he doesn't over-describe him or have Archie go into a long paragraph of backstory of Everything He Knows About Marko-- he just sort of slips him in under the radar and suddenly it's like he's always been there

My first time reading I went in order of acquisition rather than chronologically. I had NO idea that Marko wasn't an established character. I like Marko, not necessarily for himself, but for what he does for the series. Marko makes Wolfe's past into a real thing for me. I might not know what Wolfe's history is, but Marko's existence makes me feel as though it exists. This makes Wolfe more three dimensional.

When I try to imagine any other writer introducing a character like that four books into a series...what can I say? Sometimes Rex Stout impresses the hell out of me.

One of the interesting things about reading the books in order is that, ok, I've just now realized Constanza is actually the first girl Archie is really, seriously interested in-- to the point of even surprising *himself* at how strong his sudden attraction/desire to possess her is.

Hmmm, I don't know. Seriously attracted to her, yes, but interested? I guess it depends on how you define 'interested'. It seemed to me more an "I need to back off before I start acting like a sap" reaction rather than "I need to back off in case my heart gets broken."

I think the closest Archie ever came to falling for a woman (not counting Lily - she's a unique case) was the blonde one who got murdered in the Silent Speaker(?) I suspect part of her attractiveness was because she was (arguably) smarter than Archie and could keep him on his toes.

That being said. I LOVE Constanza! I love the whole set up with their flirtation and then Archie's abrupt swerve. <3<3<3

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:21 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

When I try to imagine any other writer introducing a character like that four books into a series...what can I say? Sometimes Rex Stout impresses the hell out of me.

Yeah, I have a collected Sherlock Holmes that I haven't touched in ages and it makes me want to go back and re-read THOSE just to see if maybe this is also something that Stout learned from Conan Doyle? Because the thing is, I've read some of Rex Stout's early short stories and pulp novels, and to put it nicely, they suck. Even allowing for the fact that some of them like "A Prize for Princes" were originally written as serials, they're just... kind of terrible. And his "serious" psychological novels, from what I've read about them, don't seem like the kind of writing that is good practice for *this* kind of writing, genre series writing. But his instincts when it comes to setting up these character dynamics are so good! Where did that come from?

Hmmm, I don't know. Seriously attracted to her, yes, but interested? I guess it depends on how you define 'interested'. It seemed to me more an "I need to back off before I start acting like a sap" reaction rather than "I need to back off in case my heart gets broken."

Well, yeah, but I do think Constanza is the first girl Archie *is* seriously attracted to in the books. He thinks Helen Frost is a beauty and a "goddess" and he charms her a bit over lunch trying to get her to come to Wolfe's, but you don't have him feeling, like, a lurch of fear!! when something might come between them, like Archie's little inner "Noooooes!!" when Constanza might not speak English.

Also this is totally a good example of Archie Goodwin: Lying Liar who Lies, in that when he sees Constanza, it's completely "love at first sight," complete with him quoting poetry(!!!) about losing his heart! etc., and then later, when he's actually talking to Constanza, he says "Take love at first sight, for instance, it's ridiculous. That's not love, it's just an acute desire to get acquainted." Heeee.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:27 pm (UTC)
jest: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jest
Where did that come from

His secret cupboard full of Sherlock Holmes fanfiction. IF ONLY THERE HAD BEEN THE INTERNET WHEN REX WAS A BOY!


(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 05:51 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: Grace Choi looks skeptical. Caption: Baby, a dangerous idea that almost makes sense. (dc: grace choi (a dangerous idea))
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

What makes TMC so charming to me is Stout's loving portrait of his crew of chefs. They're all passionate, high-strung elitists of one kind or another, but they're also completely dedicated to what Wolfe calls "the subtlest and the kindliest of the arts."

This just occurred to me last night: you know what the Les Quince Maitres get-together is? It's a con! They have panels! They have activities! They're all in the kitchen together fussing around, teaching each other how to do things! It's Vividcon for foodies!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 06:01 pm (UTC)
jest: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jest
*dies*

How absolutely true.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:08 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

And poor Archie is totally the non-fannish spouse/friend who got dragged along... "I can pick the one that lacks squab!"

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 12:23 am (UTC)
dorinda: Fat Pony appears in a blaze of light! (Fat_Pony)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Aaaaahahahaha ohmigosh it totally is! Fannishness simply permeates, both in the text and outside it! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:06 pm (UTC)
jest: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jest
I can't argue with anyone who can't enjoy this book because of these issues. I understand and respect that position fully.

Me too. I think books like this are useful for me to read for the perspective they give me on race issues in the 30s, but obviously other people don't need any additional perspective, in which case, "FUCK YOU, 1938" seems like an entirely appropriate attitude to take.

I think Stout regards Archie's less-progressive thinking not as a sign of bad moral character, but rather as a sign of his lack of sophistication and worldliness compared to Wolfe.

Otherwise know as: Archie, honey, your Ohio is showing. *g*

One of the things I like about this book is the way it shows racism as a culturally ingrained thing. You can't look at this book and see THE HEROIC GOOD PEOPLE vs. THE EVIL RACISTS. I don't like to see something as complicated as racism reduced to those terms.

It should be noted that Wolfe is, if not a locavore, at least acutely conscious of the role that the production of the ingredients plays in cooking. Your mouth waters when he reads his description of peanut-fed hams. In this, I think Stout is not so much incredibly forward-thinking as sophisticated for his time--I think it was WWII and its aftermath that saw the rise of full-scale industrial agriculture and all the culinary nastiness it entails.

Good point. I hadn't thought of it like that. I'm a vegetarian so the descriptions don't particularly make my mouth water. When I think of Wolfe's appetite the thing that springs to my mind is wanting to give him a kick during the story where Lily Rowan lures him out of the Brownstone with the promise of endangered Quails (?) raised on a diet of blueberries.

Yeah, that and the WWII story with the meat shortage. Archie offers to let Wolfe eat him. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:34 pm (UTC)
jest: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jest
Exactly! Though I'd be afraid that handing it over might result in more fans insisting that because they like this book there can't possibly be anything racist in it, and the problem is that we are all too politically correct these days.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 07:41 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: Bruce kneels subserviently at Diana's feet and kisses her thigh. (dc: the hiketeia bruce and diana)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn


Of course, one of the worst parts of travel is that Archie isn't able to be sure that when he comes back, Wolfe will be where he left him!

Oh yeah, I kind of have to mention this:

For ten years I had been accustomed to being as sure of finding Nero Wolfe where I had left him as if he had been the Statue of Liberty, unless his house had burned down, and it was upsetting, not to mention humiliating, to find him flitting around like a hummingbird for a chance to lick the boots of a dago sausage cook.

Then two paragraphs later:

I let a greenjacket open the door for me and trusted my hat to another one in the hall, and began the search for my lost hummingbird.

(1) "ten years" -- the timeline is still progressing

(2) there's something really sweet about Archie thinking of Wolfe as one of the landmarks of New York City, one of the touchstones of the place where he's chosen to make his life...

(3) MY LOST HUMMINGBIRD oh my god. "MY LOST HUMMINGBIRD" you guys. What is this I can't even.

(4) And then there's Archie's intense resentment of Berin-- any time Wolfe shows vulnerability, Archie hates it. He hates it when Wolfe sucks up to people-- orchid fanciers, cooks, Dazy Perrit, anybody that has something Wolfe wants. And the thing is, Wolfe is proud, but he's not too proud to fail to recognize that he can't order around everyone in the world. And sometimes, when you want something from somebody, and you don't actually have anything to hold over their head, like a threat or an obligation, you have to (gasp) ask nicely for what you want! And maybe even grovel a tiny bit! And Archie HAAAAAATES it, and gets REALLY pissy when Wolfe does it. And he always displaces his anger onto the other guy-- in this case Berin.

And then way later on in the book, when Wolfe is giving his speech at the final dinner, we get this: For the first ten minutes or so I was uneasy. There was nothing in the world I would enjoy more than watching Nero Wolfe wallowing in discomfiture, but not in the presence of outsiders. When that happy time came, which it never had yet, I wanted it to be a special command performance for Archie Goodwin and no one else around. And I was uneasy because it seemed quite possible that the hardships on the train and loss of sleep and getting shot at might have upset him so that he would forget the darned speech, but after the first ten minutes I saw there was nothing to worry about. He was sailing along. I took another sip of brandy and relaxed.

*EYEBROWS RAISED* [personal profile] hradzka, you were saying something about D/s dynamics in Wolfe canon? The subtext is rapidly becoming text! Seriously, I, wow. Archie doesn't just hate it when Wolfe shows vulnerability, he hates it when Wolfe shows vulnerability *in public*, to other people, because *Archie* is the only person who ought to get to see that!

DAMN.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-09 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
oh my god I love that humming bird quote!! xD

& it's not only cute for Archie to say, that's an interesting metaphor for him to choose--I mean he's said Wolfe was light on his feet and had delicate/precise movement, but still a hummingbird is a very interesting choice to me, it seems so little and sweet, you know? LOL!

And how cute that he worries about his speech and hates to see him vulnerable before other people--it's such a protective attitude on Archie's part, it almost is an extra thing that reminds Wolfe that he was in WWI etc

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-10 03:24 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
*that reminds him that Wolfe was in WWI

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 03:06 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

Yeah, it's true! If he was just trying to think of a comparison to *something* that wouldn't stay where you left it, he really could have come up with something less cute than a hummingbird.

It's so adorable that Archie even worries about the speech at all. I mean, if Wolfe is good at anything, it's words, talking, and effectively dramatizing things! OK, so he's been shot, but he usually doesn't even write things down beforehand, so overall it probably evens out. *G*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 03:32 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
Yes! And I love how he says 'my lost hummingbird'--such a great choice of words with 'my' and 'lost', I love how his words always give a glimpse of how close they both are to each other.

And yes on the speech! Wolfe is so brilliant and loves to talk, it's almost odd that Archie would worry at all. Wolfe could probably lecture on any topic any time, just like he does at dinner etc. I like how Archie worrying seems like superfluous, just like the normal worry you'd have for someone you loved after they'd been through a shock or been wounded.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 12:48 am (UTC)
dorinda: A nudibranch (a type of sea slug) with markings that make it look like it is smiling and wearing a hat. (nudibranch)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
And of course, this book has Yet Another Guaranteed Scene Of Dorinda-nip in which Wolfe is attacked and injured, Archie is protective and worried, and then Archie says something sassy. ♥

"Look here, Archie."

I looked and saw the blood running down the side of his face. For a second I stood dead in my tracks. I wanted to jump through the window and catch the son of a--the sharp-shooter, and give him personal treatment. And Wolfe wasn't dead, he was still sitting up. But the blood looked plenteous. I jumped to the side of the bed.

He had his lips compressed tight, but he opened them to demand, "Where is it? Is it my skull?" He shuddered. "Brains?"

"Hell no." I was looking, and was so relieved my voice cracked. "Where would brains come from?"


It takes only a subconscious flicker of instinct for Archie to act instantly by throwing the speech--but then when he sees Wolfe bleeding he's frozen. And his desire to go wreak personal revenge loses out to his need to take care of Wolfe. And then his voice cracks with relief! And then Wolfe gets stitched up without anesthetic (only grunts)!! And then Dorinda flips back and reads that scene allllll over again!!!

For all the aspects of the hard-boiled genre that Archie brings to the books, I must say I'm glad that they don't include a complacency toward getting hurt (especially Wolfe getting hurt). In this scene and the scenes like it, both of them are frightened and shaken, and surface bantering is clearly a release of genuine adrenaline.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 03:10 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
Yes! And there's a significant moment later on with Saul Panzer--

There in the small parlor sat a little guy with a big nose, in need of a shave, with an old brown cap hanging on his knee. He stood up and stuck out his hand and I took it with a grin.

"Hello, darling, I never would have thought that the time would come when you would look handsome to me. Turn around, how do you look behind?"

Saul Panzer demanded, "How's Mr. Wolfe?"

"Swell. He's in there making a speech I taught him."

"You sure he's all right?"

"Why not? Oh, you mean his casualty." I waved a hand. "A mere nothing. He thinks he's a hero. I wish to God they’d shoot me next time so he’d stop bragging. ...."


1) Archie! My goodness!!! (ETA: ... What happens at Kanawha Spa, stays at Kanawha Spa?) And he even says he was going slow on the wine at dinner, so he can't even blame the flirting on being tipsy.

2) Saul being super concerned about Wolfe is so sweet.

3) Archie should've knocked on wood or something after saying "I wish they'd shoot me next time" -- when is the first time in canon that he tells the story about not going out on a murder-related errand without his gun, because the last time he didn't, he got shot? I've always been suspicious about the fact that whenever Wolfe gets even *winged*, we hear all about it, but apparently the incident where Archie got seriously wounded, we never get to hear about...
Edited Date: 2010-05-11 03:12 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 03:03 am (UTC)
dorinda: Mike and Tino silently clasp hands, their gazes locked. (From "Trapeze".) (Trapeze_clasp)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Just now I was thinking about the thread in the Red Box discussion, about Archie purposely driving into the pothole to help keep Wolfe distracted. There's a more elaborate version in this book, shortly after they arrive, when Archie goes to join Wolfe in his room. Wolfe is obviously uncomfortable, away from his home and his comfort zone, and Archie-the-narrator tells us I was sorry that the dinner was to be informal, since three or four of the masters were cooking it, because the job of getting into dinner clothes would have made him so mad that it would have taken his mind off of other things and really been a relief to him.

So instead, Archie throws himself into the task and comes up with needle after needle, poke poke poke, until Wolfe pre-emptively fires him, and everything feels a lot more cheerful. Aw! It's really quite sweet, and typical of their relationship: if Archie really did want Wolfe to suffer, the answer would actually be to not goad him.

Then, of course, Archie keeps the ball rolling by telling Wolfe (YET AGAIN) that he'll be leaving him for a woman. *g* Although the funny thing here is that Wolfe seems to take it seriously for a minute:

"Archie." He was sitting up now, and his tone was a menacing murmur. "You are lying. Look at me."

I gave him as good a gaze as I could manage, and I thought I had him. But then I saw his lids begin to droop, and I knew it was all off. So the best I could do was grin at him.

"Confound you!" But he sounded relieved at that.


Maybe it was the trip that's thrown him off?

...and of course, there we also have Archie unable to convince Wolfe of a lie once Wolfe looks him in the face (even with "as good a gaze as I could manage")--like [personal profile] jest said in The Rubber Band discussion, Wolfe is certainly tuned in to the Archie Channel, observation-wise.

Profile

milk_and_orchids: (Default)
The Nero Wolfe fan community

September 2015

S M T W T F S
  1 2345
67891011 12
131415161718 19
20212223242526
27282930   

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags