parhelion: Archie Goodwin/meganbmoore (Archie-gun)
[personal profile] parhelion posting in [community profile] milk_and_orchids

So here I am, three days late and also, I'm afraid, three dollars short. Some Buried Caesar is widely held to be one of the very best books in the Nero Wolfe canon while I can only scratch at its surface.




That sunny September day was full of surprises.  The first one came when, after my swift realization that the sedan was still right side up and the windshield and windows intact, I switched off the ignition and turned to look at the back seat.

And, just that quickly, Some Buried Caesar is off and running.

I have three particular reasons for loving this mystery:  it's the novel during which the wonderful Lily Rowan first saunters into view, it contains prime examples of Wolfe and Archie being especially caring while also being thoroughly contentious to cover their emotional tracks, and the entire story is a great example of how to write captivating genre fiction.  To me, this is the book in which Rex Stout decisively leaves behind his literary pretensions to enter the series' middle period of briskly paced and plotted, and thereby somewhat improved, mysteries.

Fun at the Gallop

It's always entertaining to see what kind of disaster results when Nero Wolfe is forced out of the brownstone. This time, he's on his way to a county fair in rural upstate New York, there to compete with a craven grower who won't face him, albino orchid to albino orchid, at the shows back in Manhattan. (Cue the theme music from High Noon here.)  Unfortunately, the sedan blows a tire and ends up wrapped around a tree.

This accident provides the seeds of an argument about driving that Archie implies he and Wolfe will enjoy for months, one they begin even as they first survey their surroundings. The two of them are stranded at the foot of a pasture, above which Archie notices a house that likely contains a telephone.  As matters turn out, this pasture certainly contains a bull, a national champion Guernsey named Hickory Caesar Grindon.  When Archie exits the pasture quickly and awkwardly -- for him -- by vaulting over a fence, he earns the half-mocking admiration of  one of his onlookers,  the visiting femme fatale Lily Rowan.  For his part, Wolfe is left stuck on top of a boulder back in the pasture with the bull.  The novel is now on page eight.

In the chapters that follow, we meet a self-made millionaire and his household along with a neighboring, rival patrician and his household, both alike in lacking dignity.  The prospect of Hickory Caesar Grindon being rendered into the world's most expensive barbeque for the sake of publicizing pratterias -- much like cafeterias but with more Pratt involved -- is raised, and Archie is assigned guard duty so that Wolfe can access a decent mattress.  Lily Rowan decides Archie could be fun to vamp in the middle of the night, a murder occurs, and Archie and Wolfe hit it off just as well as you might expect with the local law enforcement authorities.  They all arrive at last at the county fair, where Archie is not impressed by the Dingaroola dance and learns the secret of Methodist fricassee and dumplings.  By this point, Some Buried Caesar is still only one-third done, with more murders,  confusion, confrontations, and the organization of the Crowfield County Prisoner's Union still ahead.

As wonderful as the dialogue in the early Nero Wolfe books are, they do sometimes abruptly stop the action so that either Archie or Wolfe can Explain It All to us.  In contrast, during Some Buried Caesar, Stout abandons many of these extended psychological and stylistic riffs in favor of cobbling a succession of brief descriptions into his vivid social backdrops.  It's easy to forget, while enjoying his protagonists and his character descriptions, how precise Stout could be at choosing the perfect detail and then moving on quickly to his next choice, bouncing along from detail to detail until the pages seem to click across succeeding witticisms like fingers snapping a beat.

I'd be even more envious than I am if I wasn't so thoroughly entertained.

The Dependably Undependable Narrator Strikes Again
. And Again. And Again.

...when Wolfe spoke again, I became aware that I had been rubbing the back of my left hand with the finger tips of my right as I sat staring at various spots on the floor.

"You should realize, Archie, that it is very irritating.  Rubbing your hand indefinitely like that."

I said offensively, "You'll get used to it in time..."

I think there's a bit of a bias against first-person voice these days even though quite a few good books only seem to work  as well as they do because of their first person narrators. The Nero Wolfe mysteries are pretty obviously numbered among that group.

The other books Stout wrote during this period aren't bad, but they are flatter than Archie's yarns. Not only does Archie's voice hone the edge of descriptions and provide most of the sardonic wit, but Archie's unreliable narration adds layers to his and Wolfe's characterizations that Stout's other series detectives don't seem to have.

If there wasn't a pattern to the way that Archie lies, elides, and evades, reading about his untruths might just be maddening.  Instead, the consistent ways in he tells his tales serve to hint at certain truths without his ever having to be explicit about them, which I find makes his character much more engaging than either a straightforwardly described personality or an unsolvable enigma of characterization would be.  I find having to work to learn about someone increases their interest to me, but I also enjoy feeling as if there is a destination at the end of my trip.

"...I was supposed to be keeping an eye on that bull, wasn't I?  That was my job, wasn't it? And I sat over by the roadside smoking cigarettes while he killed a man..."

On the surface layer of the narration in Some Buried Caesar, Archie seemingly tells the truth whenever he describes physical events either to his readers or to Wolfe, as well as when he repeats what he or others said.  That doesn't mean he won't leave out details, of course, and often what he chooses to leave out is as significant as what he leaves in.  Here, for example, he's not mentioning that he was sitting and smoking with the newly-met and already disturbing Lily Rowan. (I'll touch on a possible meaning of that later.)

"...And now you have the nerve to say the bull didn't kill him.  What are you trying to do, work up a case because business has been so bad?"

"No. I am trying to make you stop rubbing the back of your hand so I can finish this chapter before going to bed.

One layer down, Archie seemingly feels free to lie like a rug to anyone, including us, about both his and other's -- especially Wolfe's -- past deeds, motivations, and opinions.  This is certainly the case whenever those deeds or motivations might hint at some urge or behavior that doesn't accord with Archie's being the perfect mid-twentieth century male, one who walks down Manhattan's mean streets emotionally alone, armored against all vulnerability by cynicism and smart-assed stoicism. Wolfe does a variant of this routine as well, with witty Epicureanism substituting for the smart-assed stoicism and a self-image as a powerful, selfish aesthete taking the place of Archie's invulnerable, tough guy role.  It's no wonder each of them tolerates the other one's lies.  They're partners in the same game, even if they are scoring slightly different points.

(As a side note, there's one female in the series who also constantly uses a variation of this gambit:  Lily Rowan.  But, again, I'll get to her further on.)

I'm explaining that [the first murder] was not due to your negligence and would have occurred no matter where you were, only I presume the circumstances would have been differently arranged. I was not guilty of sophistry. I might suggest a thousand dangers to your self-respect, but a failure on the job tonight would not be one. You didn't fail..."

Even deeper within the narration, beneath all the distracting verbal fireworks and taradiddles, the reader (and Archie's intimates) are confronted again by those honestly described words and actions.  Just as what Archie consistently leaves out gives readers clues to what might be important to him, what he repeatedly chooses to describe honestly, even as he lies about motives and opinions, outlines truths that he somehow seems to want to tell without admitting to what he's doing.  For example, here in Some Buried Caesar, this guy who likes to go on about his independence from his boss describes in detail a conversation about how much that boss approves of him.  The choice to repeatedly include such descriptions is excellent evidence of Archie's actual emotional dependence on Wolfe's good opinion, and on Wolfe.

Is Archie consciously aware of how much he gives away?  Or is it just that his revealing choices of what he describes honestly scratch some internal itch that he doesn't quite comprehend?  I don't know. But it is interesting how often Archie favors either people who are completely honest or who lie in the same complex way that he does.

[Bert] looked at me. "Could you come downstairs? Mr. Osgood is down there and wants to see you."

I told him I would be right down. After he had gone and his footsteps had faded away, Wolfe said, "You might confine yourself to direct evidence. That you rubbed your hand and I endeavored to make you stop is our affair."

I told him I regarded it as such and left him to his book.

It's always seemed to me that Archie is fairly reliably unreliable. I've frequently been amused by how many readers take Archie's expository self evaluations as the sole, true descriptions of his character and ignore what he actually does and says during the books, even though he is, as first person narrator, supposedly choosing what he describes. When you come right down to it, he isn't much of a liar at all...unless the reader wants him to be.

To Archie Goodwin, she's pretty much always going to be The Woman.

Mind you, all these layers and layers of lies and truth, of witness and narrator and witness again, make it very hard to sort out exactly what is going on with Archie Goodwin and women.  That's kind of a pity because Lily Rowan, who's a big part of Some Buried Caesar, is a multifaceted character who has immediately complex interactions with both Archie and Wolfe.

Concentrating on Lily Rowan as seen by Archie, rather than as described by Archie, is really rather unfair.  She's a fascinating character when measured entirely by her own behavior:  honest, unpretentious, self-indulgent, witty, and dangerous. She really deserved her own book, and I'm peeved she never got it. Nonetheless, this time around I'm still going to beg Lily's pardon and use her primarily as a crowbar to pry at the larger problem that persists during the entire series about Archie Goodwin's attitude toward women.

On the narrative surface, all is easy.  For Archie Goodwin, women are either " lumps"  or attractive. Further sub-classifications are made on the strictly aesthetical basis of the details of good looks and behavior, most of those decisions being instinctive and not needing either defense or explanation since there's no disputing taste, etcetera.

However, once again Archie's stated opinions are alternately reinforced and contradicted by what he actually does and chooses to describe.  Very roughly speaking, on the basis of his actions rather than his words, I tentatively view Archie's categories of women as being those who are lumps to him, those he dislikes, those who amuse him, those who  immediately fascinate and delight him, and those who immediately fascinate and annoy him.  These five categories seem to encompass both the women to whom he is attracted and the women who are too old or too plain to interest him sexually.

 For the most part, Archie casually dates and dances with attractive women who amuse him.  We've met a couple of them already in the first few books; they barely seem to chip his polish. Later in canon -- in  Murder by the Book, for example -- he'll meet attractive women who fascinate and delight him.  He tends to end up keeping his distance from them or be separated from them by circumstance.  In any case, they're roughly the female Fritzes of his life, the paragons of honesty and affection.  However, it's the final category, women who start by both fascinating and annoying Archie, who seem to end up mattering the most to him. Lily Rowan certainly supports this rule of thumb.

It makes for some rough reading now and then.  Try this:

I wanted to slap her because her tone, and the look in her eyes going over me, made me feel like a potato she was peeling.

And this:

I was wondering which would be more satisfactory, to slap her and then kiss her, or to kiss her and then slap her.

Archie also spends a lot of time, both in this book and later ones, describing how, when Lily makes it clear what she wants, he is immune to her preferences, immune he says, even as he forces her to bend to his.

"...Then you can have cocktails and dinner with me."

"My pulse remains steady."

"Kiss me."

"Still steady..."

And so forth, through many more extreme examples. It's rather repulsive at times.  And yet...

"An unbeatable combination," Wolfe murmured. I could have kicked him

And yet...

In all ordinary circumstances, Wolfe's cocky and unlimited conceit prevents the development of any of the tender sentiments, such as compassion for instance...

It seems canonical that Archie Goodwin can be very rough when offering opinions about any of those who he describes in other places as able to get past his guard and make him behave in ways that indicate they might matter to him, especially if the people in question also present themselves as somehow untouchable, are also somehow liars.

At the same time Archie feels tempted to slap Lily,  they are quite obviously negotiating as equals over beginning a relationship  -- "I'm lucky I don't have to let the economic part enter into it," she says --  even while making with the bright chatter.  Within two days, he will easily and spontaneously recruit her both to seriously prank Wolfe and to claim she'll commit perjury about something critical that has to do with Archie's job, the job he never pretends doesn't matter.

Lily strikes me as annoying Archie so much because she is so much like him, which makes her someone he has to deal with as a person coping with a person rather than as Mr. Smooth condescending to accept the worship of yet another frail who wants to dance with him. This makes her dangerous to him. Nonetheless, much as he complains, Archie thrives on danger. Even in this first book, Lily has the potential to return, to matter, to alter both Archie and the course of the series.

And All The Rest...

Now I'm looking at my copy of Some Buried Caesar while despairing a little.  All these words, and there is so much on which I haven't even touched.  There are more wonderful scenes between Archie and Wolfe, interesting byplay with supporting characters that says some sophisticated things about the class system during the thirties, lots of low-down and funny lines I haven't even mentioned, the whole question as to whether or not the plot has a serious glitch, fascinating interactions with the cops which make me want to go on about Stout's middle-way attitude toward authorities, many more points to be made from the book about typical female pulp archetypes of the time and how Lily Rowan plays both with and against them...


I have to stop at some point, though, before the eleventh of May becomes the twelfth in the same way the ninth became the tenth and then the eleventh.  So now I have to throw the question over to all of you.  What did you think of, and possibly love about, Some Buried Caesar?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 04:32 pm (UTC)
marycrawford: 13 hour clock icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] marycrawford
Hi! I am new to the books, and blame [personal profile] dorinda for drawing me to them with stories of the wallet that Archie might trade for New York (MAYBE. If you throw in a couple good suburbs) and the ineffable depths of broccoli between Nero and Archie, and suchlike things. Sigh. It totally worked, too.

I've read a bunch of the early books and so far this is one of my favorites -- I love the humour and the settings, particularly the jail and the country fair, and I think you make some brilliant points about Lily as The Woman, and about Archie the almost entirely unreliable narrator, but I have to return to them later because right now I must quote this:

Three men were standing in the office: Nero Wolfe, under self-imposed restraint, Frederick Osgood, scowling, and the warden, looking disturbed. I told them good evening.


"Good. You came to question me. I was wondering what you came for."

"For one thing- " He hesitated, which was rare. He went on, "For one thing, I came to bring that package for you. The Osgood housekeeper kindly prepared it."

I looked and saw a four-bushel bundle, wrapped in brown paper, on a table. "Saws and rope ladders?" I demanded.

He said nothing. I went and tore some of the paper off and found that it contained a pillow, a pair of blankets, and sheets. I returned to confront Wolfe.

"So," I said. "So that's the way it is. I believe you mentioned wits a minute ago?"

He muttered ferociously, "Shut up. It has never happened before. I have telephoned, I have roared and rushed headlong, and Mr. Waddell cannot be found. Since I learned you were detained-he's deliberately hiding from me, I'm convinced of it. The judge won't set bail without the concurrence of the District Attorney. We don't want bail anyway. Pfui! Bail for my confidential assistant! Wait! Wait till I find him!"

"Uh-huh. You wait at Osgood's, and I wait in a fetid cell with a dangerous felon for a mate. By heaven, I will play spoon-bean with your money. As for the package you kindly brought, take it back to the housekeeper. God knows how long I'll be here, and I don't want to start in by getting a reputation as a sissy. I can take it, and it looks like I'm going to."

"You spoke of money. That was my second reason for coming."

"I know, you never carry any. How much do you want?"

"Well- twenty dollars. I want to assure you, Archie-"

"Don't bother." I got out the expense wallet and handed him a bill. "I can assure you that I shall come out of here with bugs-"

"Once when I was working for the Austrian government I was thrown into jail in Bulgaria-"

I strode to the door and pulled it open and bellowed into the hall: "Oh, warden! I'm escaping!"

I just love this SO MUCH. The bickering! I pretty much always love this kind of bickering between two people who know each other very, very well. The discussion about bugs! The fact that Wolfe has to come to Archie to get spending money! The "Oh, warden!"

And, of course, I love that Wolfe brings Archie blankets and a pillow in jail by way of apology for being unable to get him out of it. Oh, boys. And Archie refuses, because he doesn't want to look like a 'sissy' -- well. That's one of those things that can be taken both ways, and in any case, that's what he says the reason is. But then he also says he has a dangerous felon in his cell, which isn't exactly true either. I'm pretty convinced he just wants to make Wolfe feel guilty by piling it on a little more.

And then Lily comes to visit him, and not only does he spend half the conversation making her promise to play a phone prank on Wolfe, but he won't let her pay bail:"I wouldn't bother. It would make Wolfe jealous. Thanks just the same."


(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-11 06:19 pm (UTC)
marycrawford: 13 hour clock icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] marycrawford
Perhaps the most treasured quality? Being able to keep up.

Yes! And Wolfe in turn treasures Archie for keeping up with him, I think, though I'm sure he would never say so.

I just love how Archie exploits his being in jail to get one up on Wolfe, here, with all his drama about the dangerous felon and threatening to play spoon-bean with his money and whatnot.

I wonder what Wolfe was in jail for? Also, what he was going to say about his stay in the jail in Bulgaria?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-12 06:48 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

"You spoke of money. That was my second reason for coming."

"I know, you never carry any. How much do you want?"

"Well- twenty dollars. I want to assure you, Archie-"

Hee hee hee. Wolfe is so cute when he's being hesitant. "Well..." :D Wolfe never says "Well...."!

I also like the way Archie calls back to this bit when Lily visits him and opens her purse and asks "Do you have money?" and he says "Sure, how much do you need?" Probably the first time anyone ever asked Lily Rowan if she needed any money. *G*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-17 12:26 am (UTC)
dorinda: Sherlock Holmes smiles fondly, unseen, at Watson. (holmes_watson_01)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
I am new to the books, and blame dorinda for drawing me to them

Aw! \o/

I love how Archie both tells and shows us Wolfe's unaccustomed hesitancy in that scene--He hesitated, which was rare, and that "Well...". It is indeed rare, how obviously distressed Wolfe is, and since the situation is not a matter of life and death, Archie enthusiastically rides that distress with spurs on. *g*

Also, Wolfe bringing a package of comfy bedding reminds me of the many times he worries about whether Archie has eaten. Archie, of course, tends to view occasional self-deprivation in those areas as a reinforcement of his masculinity, even though he's also clearly unhappy about it on the inside (even when he doesn't get attacked by bugs).

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-12 12:58 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (fandom vm: slytherin pride)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
Re: being late. So far, everyone else so far posted on the very, very last day of their assigned week. So if we're grading on a curve, you're early! Not that I mind a few more days to talk about Some Buried Caesar. *G*

Now that I'm going through the books in order, it strikes me how weird it is to have two books in a row where Wolfe and Archie go to White Castle take the show on the road, especially after it's been so solidly established Wolfe NEVER EVER leaves the house and really doesn't like doing it. And now there's two books in a row where he not only leaves the house, he leaves it for days at a time, and actually goes travelling! He leaves the whole *city*!

If I were reading an 'arc' into the books I'd see this as something Archie writes about to indicate that Wolfe is changing. Something has changed that makes him feel a little bit safer, in terms of venturing out of the house. And without even putting my slash goggles on I think it's safe to say that the x-factor in this equation is Archie. If he has Archie along to distract him and infuriate him, he can handle going out! And to go back to the 'convention' metaphor that I brought up in the last post-- he's kind of doing the "socializing training wheels" thing, isn't he? The way a lot of geeks use common interests/geeky activities to find a social group... Wolfe isn't doing the tourist thing, where he goes someplace new and different where he doesn't know anybody, and the burden would be on him to talk to strangers and such. He's going to places (a convention of chefs, a show for orchid growers) where he's recognized as a respected expert, somebody with an established reputation. He's going places where he already knows he's going to have a common language and similar shared priorities with the people there. They'll have things to talk about. He's outside of the house, but he's still safely within his area of expertise.

And the other thing about these two books is that for the first time, Wolfe is shown to be more vulnerable, in the sense that-- instead of this monolithic, untouchable Wolfe-as-island depiction, this guy who is totally self-sufficient with his cook and his legman and his gardens, who never needs *or* wants to leave the house for anything-- Wolfe is now letting himself *want* things, enough to actually go after them (I would have said 'ask for them' but more accurately, in traditional Wolfe fashion, he makes bargains). He wants Berin's sausage recipe. He wants to stay at Pratt's house instead of the hotel. He wants (I'm sure) to win all the prizes at the orchid show. And he's letting himself admit that, he's letting himself be moved (if only slightly) by his desires instead of denying that he could possibly ever want anything in that big dumb world out there (a lot of Wolfe's condemnation of the Outside World and the stupid people in it, I think, is just slightly flavored with sour grapes.) Anyway, I think this is really healthy, it's a good sign for Wolfe.

On a more prosaic level, maybe Rex Stout was just tired of writing so many scenes in the office? SO MUCH of those first four books takes place in the office. It starts to feel a little cave-y. Like, open a window occasionally, guys! And so these books are a nice change, and I think, after they get back to New York, the more "open" feeling carries over a bit, because Archie gets to do a little more independent investigating, he isn't just "the legman" so much...

Anyway... more thoughts later. (No one is surprised...)
Edited Date: 2010-05-12 12:58 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-17 12:51 am (UTC)
dorinda: Fat Pony appears in a blaze of light! (Fat_Pony)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
So far, everyone else so far posted on the very, very last day of their assigned week.

For what it's worth, I can pretty much guarantee that that pattern will continue with Over My Dead Body. *g*

If I were reading an 'arc' into the books I'd see this as something Archie writes about to indicate that Wolfe is changing.

That makes sense. It also seems to fit with the disappearance of the mention of relapses--the general feeling overall that some of Wolfe's most intense anxieties are becoming more manageable. Quality-of-life-wise, being eccentric from choice and predilection is one thing, but being driven to behave certain ways out of instinctive panic is quite another.

Wolfe isn't doing the tourist thing, where he goes someplace new and different where he doesn't know anybody, and the burden would be on him to talk to strangers and such.

I love this (as with the convention idea)! It fits so well with his personality, his eccentricities, and his anxieties, that he would benefit from such structure when he leaves the house. Now that you've mentioned it, other examples spring to mind of times he's basically going to a convention of one kind or another (Poison a la Carte and Black Orchids, for instance).

Wolfe is now letting himself *want* things, enough to actually go after them (I would have said 'ask for them' but more accurately, in traditional Wolfe fashion, he makes bargains).

An interesting point! And one which certainly comes up again soon, speaking of Black Orchids. I think your emphasis of the bargain rather than the request is an important one--whether it's in getting information from Cramer or Lon Cohen, or acquiring a sausage recipe or an orchid, Wolfe tries like hell to make sure he has an ace in the hole (or at least can make the other person believe he does). The times when he simply has to ask someone for something without any leverage, he seems profoundly uncomfortable. He does not do well at throwing himself on someone else's mercy. Just off the top of my head, I remember a fairly elaborate and pained request he makes of Lily Rowan in Death of a Dude--one which, it seems to me, other people wouldn't feel anywhere near so deeply.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-19 08:06 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

An interesting point! And one which certainly comes up again soon, speaking of Black Orchids.

Actually, I had totally forgotten-- he does it sooner than that, because he pulls the same trick TWICE in "Some Buried Caesar." Before the murder, he pimps out Archie as a pasture-guard so that he can stay with the Pratts, and then after the murder when things have cooled between him and Pratt, he has that hilarious conversation with Osgood: "Oh, well, I guess I'll be off now-- what? Stay in town and solve the murder? But I'd need some base of operations... convenient to Pratt's place, quiet... hmm, if only I could think of someplace... What's that you say? *Your* house? Well, I don't know... I *guess* so, if you really insist."

And then Archie is like: I stood up with my heels together and saluted him, and he glared at me. Naturally he knew I was on to him. Machiavelli was a simple little shepherd lad by comparison. Not that I disapproved by any means, for the chances were that I would get a fairly good bed myself, but it was one more proof that under no circumstances could you ever really trust him.

I love that. There's something just so cute about Archie being totally unable to restrain himself and for once, mocking Wolfe in public (although silently). And also the cuteness of Archie being like "you can't pull one over on me! see, I totally know when YOU are lying to ME!" when Wolfe was, honestly, being Mr. Obvious of Obviousville; it doesn't exactly take a detective to see through his reverse psychology on Osgood. And to me, Archie just sounds so *admiring* when he says "you could never really trust him." I mean that doesn't really sound like the kind of thing you say affectionately, but-- it is!

Just off the top of my head, I remember a fairly elaborate and pained request he makes of Lily Rowan in Death of a Dude--one which, it seems to me, other people wouldn't feel anywhere near so deeply.

Yeah. It's pretty much exactly the same situation, except like you said, Wolfe has no leverage. I mean, he has *some*-- obviously not as much as in this case, since unlike Osgood Lily isn't out for vengeance because a loved one got killed. But Wolfe *could* have tried to fake Lily out and be like "... I guess I'll have to head home! I can't possibly work from a hotel and I have no other options!" *significant pause* But maybe he respects her too much to try that, I don't know. (Also she's not his client, so maybe that makes a difference?)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-13 04:25 am (UTC)
dorinda: Randolph Scott smiles at Cary Grant. (Randolph_Cary)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
I'm behind in my re-read, I'm afraid, and this is one of the books I'm a bit less familiar with, so I'll have to comment some more later. But for now, may I say the scene when they first end up in the pasture is aces! Wolfe takes hold of Archie and issues a sharp command, then gives odd instructions--and Archie, the man who Owns His Own Furniture, the man who Fights Shy Of Bonds, instantly obeys to the letter, without knowing the reason or even asking why. After Archie's run-and-leap, there's also the striking visual of Wolfe standing still and dignified atop the boulder--and the tacit information it gives us that he, the fat sedentary agoraphobe, was nevertheless perfectly able to get there quickly and scramble up without undue strain.

Plus, in the ongoing saga of the electric current between them--when they're frozen in a pasture staring toward a bull, and Wolfe is talking quietly right behind Archie's head, Wolfe nevertheless can tell that Archie's finger moves when Archie replies. A little glimpse of Wolfe's super-awareness of Archie's tiniest muscular twitches, the perfect mirror image of all the times we hear of the reverse.

Also, the pasture situation puts me in mind of the scene back in Fer de Lance, when they're both in the office and Archie thinks there's a bomb. Then, Archie's all GET OUT AND SAVE YOURSELF, which Wolfe won't do. Now, we have Wolfe saying "How fast can you run?", and Archie replying, "I can beat that bull to that fence. Don't think I can't. But you can't." When the bull charges, though, Archie can't help but run for it, and observes in the narration, I have since maintained that it flashed through my mind that if I moved it would attract him to me and away from Nero Wolfe, but there's no use continuing that argument here.

I get a couple of things from this. One, it's always okay with Archie if Wolfe were to get out of danger first and leave Archie to face the music. It in fact seems to be what Archie would prefer (not that he wouldn't needle Wolfe about it later, of course. *g* And Wolfe would tell him he was preening.). Two, Wolfe was in fact giving Archie careful instructions about getting himself away from the bull that ended with "turn and run," and the bull's charge just made Archie skip right to the last step. So, since Archie was actually doing basically what Wolfe was just telling him to get ready to do, why would there be any argument to continue?

It makes me think that there wouldn't really be an argument about it from Wolfe's side, but that Archie simply feels bad and guilty about it--seeing it perhaps as running off and leaving Wolfe there, despite Wolfe's instructions, despite the pressures of the flight reflex, and even despite the fact that it drew the bull toward him and left Wolfe in the clear (which he emphasizes defensively--surely unnecessarily, as I expect it was Wolfe's original plan anyway). In Archie's preferred self-image, he's supposed to be the guy who stands firm and tells Wolfe to get out and save himself (even if this way actually ended up being the best). So I'm guessing he's 1) projecting, and 2) bringing it up a lot and picking fights over it, jabbing at his own sore spot. (Not that he EVER DOES THAT. *g* Oh, honey.)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-13 09:09 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (dc: not even supposed to be here)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

*nod nod* I like your analysis here. What also gets me about that scene is how terribly furious and petty Wolfe is afterwards: ".... We had an accident. Mr. Goodwin was unable to restrain our car-- I beg your pardon. Miss Pratt, this is Mr. Goodwin."

She politely put her hand out and I took it. Wolfe was repeating, "Mr. Goodwin was unable to restrain our car from crashing into a tree. After inspecting the damage he claimed he had run it over glass. He then persuaded me to trespass in that pasture. It was I, not he, who first saw the bull after it had emerged from behind the thicket. He boasted complete ignorance of the way a bull will act--"

I had known when I saw his face as we approached the boulder that he was going to be childish, but he might at least have saved it for privacy.

"Childish" is one of the worst criticisms Archie can lay on a person or activity, so he's totally stung here. And Wolfe's fury really seems to come out of nowhere-- Archie notices that he's about to explode as he and Caroline approach the boulder, but he's reasonable, even pleasant, to Caroline while they're in the car-- he even jokes with her, calling her "Miss Stanley" when she calls him "Livingstone." I think at first maybe I assumed that Wolfe's fury was because he looked stupid in front of everybody, or maybe because he had to be rescued by a woman and that offended him?

But now that I'm reading it, I wonder if he's sort of overcompensating for being *so relieved* that Archie's all right, that he hasn't gotten him killed by leading him into a deathtrap, telling him to ignore Dave's yelling, etc. (It makes me think of the bit I pointed out a couple of books ago where Archie mentions that Wolfe only addresses him as "Mr. Goodwin" to his face when in the grip of some strong emotion, which is interesting to me because traditionally it's the other way around, like Spock only rarely calling Kirk "Jim," etc. But of course Wolfe has to be more contrary, so he actually gets more *formal* when he feels something really strongly.) And in this case, I think, since he can't say something like "oh my god, Archie, that was so close! He almost got you! Thank goodness you're okay," he goes the other way completely and is like: "worried about Archie? I totally wasn't worried about Archie. He's a jerk anyway!! This was all his fault!"

Anyway, Archie doesn't seem to hold it against Wolfe, which is pretty big of him.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-13 08:44 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: stephen fry peering round a wall (Default)
From: [personal profile] soupytwist
I completely buy this - the little "Thank god!" is just after Archie turns round and proves he's alive, and my love for this will never cease! - and it particularly makes sense because Wolfe is so obsessed with controlling his emotions. Wolfe does not handle loss of control well, and a car crash where he also worries for Archie's safety is about as bad as that gets, for him.

Which actually ties really well into the Wolfe-leaving-the-house-and-relaxing-his-control thoughts above, which I really love. Wolfe does, as the books go on, seem like someone who is testing his limits, relaxing that little bit and trying to see where the limits of safety are. How conscious that was, god knows -I suspect not very - but it's actually astonishingly realistic in some ways.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-17 01:01 am (UTC)
dorinda: Mike and Tino silently clasp hands, their gazes locked. (From "Trapeze".) (Trapeze_clasp)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Oh yes, I'm totally onboard with the idea of him overcompensating for his own relief, and how it relates to his own attempts at control. Seems to me that's also what Archie does in those scenes throughout the corpus I so adore where Wolfe gets attacked--those events trigger Archie to show vulnerable emotion in some way, so of course he needs to button that relief right up afterward with a needling remark. Of course, he's usually more obviously teasing in those cases, whereas in this book Wolfe goes overboard into actively aggressive--but then, I'd say Wolfe has more (or at least, more obvious) control issues.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-13 08:39 pm (UTC)
soupytwist: Miranda Otto dancing (dancing crazy)
From: [personal profile] soupytwist
For me the total, total love of this book starts at the first page, where Wolfe is all "Thank god!" about surviving the crash... and specifically the second Archie has turned round and proved he's alive. HEARTS!

Basically the whole book is a delight, but random bits I particularly noticed:

"Twenty years ago I was an athlete" - I had completely forgotten this! It's not clear if he means as in actually participated in sporting competitions or just "way more physically able than I am now", but either way it's kind of interesting, I thought. :) I also love Wolfe talking Archie through bull-prevention plans, until said bull starts charging and Archie imitates a particularly graceful deer. *g*

Archie's weird relationships with women cropping up again (although he and Lily have an awesome relationship, it does just put the weirdness of the others into perspective!) - Archie saying "a girl is a girl and an athlete is an athlete, though of course there are borderline cases"! Archie's liking for women and the deep and unmappable ways he's threatened by them make me go 'oh, honey, it's okay'.

Lily is just fabulous and re-read has really hit it home how very much she is like a female Archie: she snaps back everything he's got in very much a way he would, and they understand each other on a level that clearly nobody else does. I mean, Archie comes up with a completely insane story about 8ft tall Amazons as his "my first woman" story, and she still sits with him and smokes!

Archie and Wolfe after Clyde's body is found are just... my cold black heart goes clench, because they are so domestic and adorable. Archie's upset because he was sitting and smoking and a man died, and Wolfe is trying SO HARD to make him feel better, in his very Wolfe way, and the way they talk about it is just entirely Old Married Couple. As is the later bit where Archie's coming up with theory after theory and telling Wolfe to quit dissing his driving in front of company and trying to make Wolfe feel better about the case going down the flame-grill. Awwww.

"Do I release cats in public?" - what I love about this is that it doesn't seem like one of their pre-agreed codewords, but more like one of the times Archie has a crazy yet perfect way of saying something without revealing to outsiders what he's on about, and Wolfe instantly gets it. And Archie doesn't have a seconds flicker of doubt that Wolfe will believe his version, trust Archie's instinct that this piece of gossip is true over the father yelling that it isn't. ♥

Wolfe had taught me that one of the most important requirements for successful lying was relaxed vocal chords = WOLFE GAVE ARCHIE LYING LESSONS. (Um, in my head; there are other possibilities, but so much less fun!) And tied with Wolfe saying "As well as you" when questioned re good potential liars to trust with the denoument of the case, I am quite confident my rambling in a previous post about Wolfe not really thinking Archie a bad liar but just not wanting to force that on him, as being bad for Archie, is plausible. :)

but the person to admit it to was [....] me. That's what a confidential assistant is for. OMG, Archie, honey, if you wanted us to believe your only interest was the job, then you should probably stop talking about how you don't like it when your boss reveals he's not perfect to other people because people who aren't you shouldn't get to see that. I'm just saying.

I liked Wolfe's comment that moral indignation is a dangerous indulgence: Wolfe is someone who has what can often seem a pretty odd set of moral codes and lines he draws in the sand, but he is always someone who takes them very seriously. He might get petty, but he never gets seriously judgey without a lot of thought and rationale behind it. I like that.

I love the glimpses in this novel of Archie helping with the orchids - he is, in his obviously-less-than-Wolfe way, an orchid geek, and it's really cute. :)

Wolfe being ohhhh so nice as pie as he says "He won't shoot you in my presence. He knows I dislike violence" made me laugh a lot, I had forgotten that, and it is classic snarky Wolfe. Heeeee. (And that kind of thing is also a big way Wolfe and Archie are similar, I think: they are very different people but their views on the important things, under the surface, mesh really well. Someone who couldn't bring it on in that kind of way would be a crap boss for Archie, let alone someone Archie could live with and care about.)

Wolfe giving Archie back his wallet and that whole conversation is hearts. I won't copy it all out, but HEARTS. (And the "help me or I'll go to the papers" scene, where it's hard to tell if Wolfe's more invested in getting the criminal or getting Archie out of jail. Aw.)

And finally, Archie being adorable and weirdly awkward for a ladies man dealing with ladies - "They're barbaric vestiges of... of barbarism!" LOLOLOLOL FOREVER.

ALso also Wolfe asking Archie to look up "spiritual" at the end - that is totally his little "the ladies are after your body, Archie!" jab, right? :D

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-14 06:50 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
Archie saying "a girl is a girl and an athlete is an athlete, though of course there are borderline cases"!

I also like how he's all "and I told Caroline I would totally want to play tennis with her if I hadn't strained my wrist going over the fence, which was a lie, but anyway..." Oh Archie. If a girl beat you at tennis you'd just die, wouldn't you. ^_^ That's so *him*. Too scaredy-cat to play a lady tennis champ, but too proud not to admit that he's lying about it.

but the person to admit it to was [....] me. That's what a confidential assistant is for. OMG, Archie, honey, if you wanted us to believe your only interest was the job, then you should probably stop talking about how you don't like it when your boss reveals he's not perfect to other people because people who aren't you shouldn't get to see that. I'm just saying.

I love that bit SO much. There's just so much tangled up in it! Possessiveness, and "decorum," and Archie's usual frustration when Wolfe is talking about knowing something that Archie doesn't know...

And finally, Archie being adorable and weirdly awkward for a ladies man dealing with ladies - "They're barbaric vestiges of... of barbarism!" LOLOLOLOL FOREVER.

Lily totally cracks me up at the end. SHE knows how to handle him: offer to buy him some roller skates and aggies and a pop gun!! That's how to win Archie Goodwin's heart.

ALso also Wolfe asking Archie to look up "spiritual" at the end - that is totally his little "the ladies are after your body, Archie!" jab, right? :D

I missed this the first couple of times I read SBC, but that's a callback to something Archie said earlier: "What about Miss Rowan? She seems inclined to friendship. Emphatically, since she visited you in jail."

"How the devil did you know that?"

"Not knowledge. Surmise. Your mother's voice on the telephone was hers. We'll discuss that episode after we get home.
[Oooooh Archie you're in TROUBLE WHEN DADDY GETS HOME!] ".... Surely, if she is as friendly as that, she would be pliant."

"I don't like to use my spiritual appeal for business purposes."

"Proscriptions carried too far lead to nullity."

"After I analyze that I'll get in touch with you. My first impulse is to return it unopened."

So yes, Wolfe is making a crack about Archie's spiritual appeal being not all that spiritual. *G*
Edited Date: 2010-05-14 06:51 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-17 01:28 am (UTC)
dorinda: Fat Pony appears in a blaze of light! (Fat_Pony)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
Archie and Wolfe after Clyde's body is found are just... my cold black heart goes clench

♥ ! You said it. I love the whole sequence from when Archie finds the body. Archie is so obviously sickened and distraught, and then clearly in shock--I climbed up on the fence and sat there, and Caroline asked me something, I don't know what, and I shook my head at her. And in fact, he's only brought out of that dazed numb headspace by hearing Wolfe say his name--Archie didn't even see his approach, but there Wolfe is, right next to him.

And Archie's first reaction to Wolfe having gone out and about without his knowledge, of course, is to demand "How did you get here without a light?" There's that dynamic again, where Archie's all WOLFE WENT OFF WITHOUT ME HE'LL FALL IN A HOLE. *g* I love Wolfe's plainspoken response, and the lines there to be read between: "I walked. I heard shots and wondered about you." Very few letters separate wondered and worried! :D

And then of course, the scene in their room is just SO INTIMATE AND DOMESTIC THAT VERILY I COULD DIE. Wolfe knowing his step. Archie obviously still shaken. Wolfe comforting him in their own particular way. Part of Archie's distress being so inextricably bound to his pride in serving Wolfe--"When did you ever give me an errand that you seriously expected me to perform and I didn't perform it?" And so on and so on and LOOK OUT IT'S A SQUEEVALANCHE.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-19 08:08 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (f. wolfe: wolfe's perfect day)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

"I walked. I heard shots and wondered about you."

Eeeeeee. You know, I like to think I'm paying as much attention to Wolfe as I am to Archie, even though Archie is totally my favorite, but you guys keep pointing out these great Wolfe moments that I totally missed the significance of. Poor Wolfe! Imagine how he must have felt, hearing those shots and having told Archie just hours ago "You won't see the dawn" !!

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-14 08:32 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (Default)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

You guys, I am like 10 hours of sleep behind on the week, which is going to be a 7-day work week by the time I'm done with it, but SOME BURIED CAESAR. <3 <3 <3

Here are some more of my random sleep-deprived thoughs.

-- One of the things I love about the Wolfe books (and that I think makes them total fan-bait) is how much fun Wolfe and Archie have with words. Not just "here's a big word you probably don't know," but goofing off with slang, with quotations ("I think it's in Spenser!") the times when Archie has to translate Cramer's "street" talk and police jargon for Wolfe, with French words via Fritz, etc. I bet Wolfe was such a kick to write. If I were Rex Stout I would write Wolfe monologues all day long. *G* Anyway, there is one bit in "Some Buried Caesar" which I love to death, where Wolfe is trapped on top of the rock, and he thinks Archie is messing with him, and he doesn't say "Archie, when I get off this rock--" he says, "Archie, when once I get--" Even trapped on a rock, his Wolfe-grammar is impeccable. *hearts*

-- Archie guesses that Caroline Pratt, golf champ, is a lesbian: ".... You're a champion detective, and Hickory Caesar Grindon is a National champion bull, and I'm a golf champion ..."

I thought, so that accounts for the wrists and arms, she's one of those.

When I first read this I thought "does he mean lesbian?" because you'd think that if he really thought so, he'd be flirting with Lily instead of her when they're at the house drinking highballs (sure, he could just be playing hard to get, but this is before he gets the whole speech from Caroline about how that's the best way to catch Lily, so who knows.) Then I was watching "So Proudly We Hail" which is this 1943 movie about nurses in Bataan and such, and there's this bit where a strapping young Navy man protests to, I think it's Paulette Goddard or Claudette Colbert, one of those two anyway, that "No woman's going to give ME a sponge bath!" and she gives him the eyebrows and goes "Oh, one of THOSE!" So I'm pretty sure that's what it means.

-- Wolfe and women in this book-- you know, to me Wolfe is like the complete inversion of a misogynist, in that, generally most misogynists will SAY they don't hate/fear women, but act and talk as if they do. Whereas Wolfe makes a point of *saying* he has issues with women, but if he didn't *say* so, there are whole books where you'd never know-- this one is maybe the best example. There's not a woman in the book that he doesn't end up complimenting or respecting or even semi-sort-of flirting with at some point.

Caroline Pratt: he laughs at her "Dr Livingstone" joke (well, his lips twitch, which for Wolfe is a laugh, anyway) and then thanks her for rescuing him by saying "Thank you for having intelligence and using it."

Nancy Osgood: he seems really, sincerely impressed with her when she suggests that, even though her brother is dead, technically he won the bet and Pratt will have to pay the money: "My dear child." Wolfe opened his eyes at her. "What a remarkable calculation. Amazing. It deserves to bear fruit, and we must see what can be done. I underestimated you, for which I apologize. ...[etc].. That's a superb idea, to collect from Pratt to pay Bronson. I like it. By winning his last wager your brother vindicated, as far as he could, all his previous sacrifices in the shabby temple of luck. Magnificent and neat... and fine of you, very fine, to perceive the necessity of completing the gesture for him ...." And, true to his word, Wolfe *does* keep quiet about Clyde's gambling debts, and at least as far as I can tell, his father never finds out about them. Unless it comes out in the suicide note/confession, I guess. But anyway, Osgood Sr. never finds out from Wolfe.

Lily Rowan: Lily, I think, impresses him by saying "I'll come back and GET my orchids" rather than just telling Wolfe where they can be delivered. Also he probably appreciates the feudal overtones of her making an advance to him in advance of making friends with Archie. And then they totally get along at lunch! He, as always in the company of good food, was sociable and expansive. Discovering that Lily had been in Egypt, he told about his house in Cairo, and they chatted away like a pair of camels, going on to Arabia and making quite a trip of it. She let him do most of the talking but made him chuckle a couple of times, and I began to suspect she wasn't very obvious and might even be smooth.

I think it's really adorable that, first of all, on a Doylist level, Rex Stout clearly thought it was necessary for Wolfe to approve of (if not "like") the love of Archie's life, and on a Watsonian level, it's just adorable that Archie starts getting really intrigued and/or impressed with Lily when she makes Wolfe laugh. *G*

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-15 06:12 pm (UTC)
liviapenn: the shade, in shadow, looking smirky over a cup of coffee (dc: the shade is smirky)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn

More random comments:

-- When the cops want to take Archie's gun: "I own the gun, by the way." Man, no wonder Archie is so insistent about owning his furniture, he doesn't own *anything* else! (This goes back to what I was saying in the last post about how weird it is to have a fictional duo with this kind of relationship-- employer/employee. I can't think of any other iconic fictional team with this kind of set-up.)

The whole sequence where Wolfe telepathically signals Archie that he's going to do something and Archie knows exactly what to do is so great. And it also shows Archie's incredible confidence in Wolfe-- not just that he's going to distract the one guy by spraying him, but that he's going to be able to *pick the other guy's pocket* afterwards to find the wallet Archie stashed there, a guy who is already suspicious of Wolfe and knows that he and Archie are desperately trying to hide something! When did Archie learn that Wolfe is an accomplished pick-pocket? I mean, it makes sense if you ascribe some kind of background in espionage to Wolfe, that's the stuff spies learn. But I'm still just stuck on when Wolfe would ever have had occasion to even mention being a genius pick-pocket-- I mean, it's not the kind of thing that would come in handy during Wolfe's usual cases where hopefully all the new people stay as far away from him as possible.

-- Some of my favorite Archie Goodwin Insults from this book: "First, if you think you can scare me by threats about basements you're too dumb for a mother's tears." ... "This will get you a row of ciphers and the finger of scorn and a bellyache." Also the sly little injection about Osgood in the middle of describing him: "It stuck out all over him, one of those born-to-command guys. I never invite them to parties." Beee hee hee hee. Oh, this book also features my favorite Archie Goodwin self-description, when he's telling the cops why he handed off Jimmy's bribe: "There are times when I feel kittenish, and that was one." AHAHAHAA. I can see it now, Archie's autobiography: The Archie Goodwin Story: Sometimes I Feel Kittenish. :D

-- I like the character of Basil, Archie's cellmate. You kind of get the sense that while they're in prison together and Archie makes him vice president of the prisoners' union, Archie is kind of enjoying having his own Archie to run errands and do things and be snarky at him. ("No damn good as an agitator?" he inquired sarcastically.)

-- Another thing I could have mentioned in my last comment about how if Wolfe has issues with women, you couldn't tell it from "Some Buried Caesar" -- when he comes to get Archie in prison, he is wearing "the brown tie with tan stripes which Constanza Berin had sent him from Paris". N'aaaw. I wonder if she bothered to send Archie anything!

Also I'm still curious about this bit of your review: the whole question as to whether or not the plot has a serious glitch

Does it? Where? Is the whole cow-switching plot impossible and I missed it?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-20 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
I hesitated when rereading this one, because I never like the cases where Wolfe has left the office indefinitely, but I'm happy I went and did.

I like this reversal of roles we get with Archie being pursued by Lily, it's interesting for him to be in the position that the girls he compliments usually are. It's interesting how her focus on him is something he seems almost surprised by and sometimes seems to be upset by. An odd reaction for how he usually describes himself (as a ladies' man); he seems to have an almost physical discomfort at being looked at suggestively/appreciatively like Lily does (like he's a 'potato she's peeling'.)

I also like how he has his token protest of not using his 'spiritual appeal' to get Lily to help them solve the case, but Archie himself uses Lily to prank Wolfe. When he speaks with her he often references Wolfe: he says he'll 'eat at home with my employer' at the end instead of eating with her (which seems to overemphasize his attachment), he tells her not to pay bail since it will make Wolfe jealous, etc.

I find it interesting, this whole behavior of Archie's. I wonder if it maybe partly stems from the early scene when Lily eats lunch with Wolfe and Archie, and Archie describes them talking to each other as:
< Discovering that Lily had been in Egypt, he told about his house in Cairo, and they chatted away like a pair of camels, going on to Arabia and making quite a trip of it. >

This seems to me to be one of the most positive depictions of Wolfe getting along with a woman. The third and fifth phrase in that sentence are very interesting, Archie is almost withholding his opinion/feelings and yet is describing the action with appropriate metaphorical flourish

I also enjoy in this book the way Archie in one spot paints Wolfe as this eternal landmark, who has apparently never had a previous life. Obviously he knows about his life (at least in general)--actually I would argue that he knows a potentially substantial amount about it, not necessarily factual information, but definitely emotional in some sense. I feel this way because of how he rarely if ever uses food to make Wolfe upset.

Typically you'd expect Archie to joke about everything, to say 'I forswear eating until you solve the case/do xyz' or just deliberately refuse to eat something, etc but I don't remember him doing this. I think since he rarely does things like this, it's because he sees it as 'too far'--as unnecessarily cruel. And I think that position necessitates knowing something about how seriously Wolfe was upset by starving and his experiences in WWI. (this is all re: "It took less than five minutes to get from there to the Methodist tent. Wolfe was still there, at the table, looking massively forlorn on the folding chair. He had probably never before digested good food under such difficult circumstances.")

We often see Archie say that his job is to jab at Wolfe, but I liked seeing Wolfe say it: "My only serious fault is lethargy, and I tolerate Mr. Goodwin, and even pay him, to help me circumvent it."
The combination of tolerate and 'even pay him' is amusing to me. I can't define why at this moment.

I also like that we see this subplot of Wolfe ruining this other orchid guy--that's why they're even there, is because Wolfe is vindictive. I found that amusing, and also that Archie didn't seem to rag on him for it, which I take to mean he approved. I thought it nice to see Archie helping do so much plant work, since obviously Theodore isn't there--it's easy for me to forget how much Archie knows about orchids and how much he helps out with them/does records etc.

I especially enjoyed Archie's joke of taking out two nickels and sliding them across the table to Wolfe and asking 'how did he know something'--because there's a fortune teller around who charges 10c for a reading of the future!

While I have been fascinated by Lily I have never loved her, but I did love her words to Wolfe:
She looked him in the eye. "I want you to like me, Mr. Wolfe. Or not dislike me. Mr. Goodwin and I are probably going to be friends. Will you give me an orchid?"
Lily chooses such precise words here, I am really astounded at what a cool character she is. It's also interesting that Archie is so upset after having 'failed' at a task assigned by Wolfe that when Lily tells him to kiss her he:
I bent and deposited a peck on her brow. "There. Thank you for calling. Nice to see you."
"You're a lout."
"I have at no time asked you to submit bids."

I really like this exchange. Stout makes these characters so realistic and complex. Archie's actions & words here speak for themselves, in their sense of not matching up with the guy he wants to be.

There is another moment when Lily puts her arm through Archie's, and he writes that he was a person who was prone to 'fight shy of bonds'--and he says he kept things 'strictly to persiflage'. Using that 50 cent word is very interesting to me. Usually he does that to annoy Wolfe, but here it is just in his narration. I don't know what I think about it.

I also like how early on Archie goes over and tells Wolfe that the chicken fricassee is really good. And Wolfe 'nodded gravely' in response. It seems like a realistic, personal detail, and I like how it maybe exposes how earnest Archie can be in his respect for Wolfe.

I also liked that Archie says Lily bribing the jail officers to see him is the first time 'anyone had paid cash to have a look at me' -- it just reminds me of how everything in Wolfe's office has to be aesthetically pleasing, and how Archie describes himself once as a luxury object of beauty.

I wonder after the book ends about Archie's date with Lily--is that when he finds out she's a great dancer, and therefore warms up towards her? I find his passion for terpsichore interesting--instead of being plain looking like Astaire, Archie's supposed to be rather handsome and has charisma etc. So this detail of his extreme love of dancing, is a very unique one to me. (For example, in Champagne for One he says dancing can't be cheerful, "Dancing's too important. It can be wild or solemn or gay or lewd or art for art's sake, but it can't be cheerful. " -- this is huge to me, for Archie to say ars gratia artis?! I find this to be a profound statement on his greatest passion.) Archie often emphasizes dancing ability seemingly over a woman's beauty--it seems to be the ultimate blue ribbon/skill/asset in his mind.

Anyway I was happy I gave the book another shot. =) [lol this is the html repaired comment!]

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-22 08:01 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
Oh and I forgot to say that I find Archie's word choices very interesting in the rest of a section I quoted up above:

"I have at no time asked you to submit bids."
The corner of her mouth went up. "This is a public exposition. I paid my way in. You're an exhibitor. Go ahead and exhibit. Show me."
"Not exhibitionist. Exhibitor. Anyway, I'm only an employee."
I took her elbow and eased her across the aisle. "Mr. Wolfe, you know Miss Rowan, She wants to be shown the orchids."

I find this fascinating, the way Lily talks to Archie, and then how Archie responds with 'Not exhibitionist. Exhibitor.' And then he proceeds to emphasize how he's just the worker bee and takes her to Wolfe--I think this is one of the few times he tries to get 'rid' of a girl/or get away from one (or at least from one on one socializing) by shoving her off on Wolfe! (despite Wolfe's appropriateness as an orchid guide.) And then Archie says that the 'upshot' of Lily being shown the orchids is that "she at lunch with us."

Instead of Wolfe eating with other orchid enthusiasts etc, the three of them eat together, something I find interesting (since I imagine that Archie usually goes off to charm girls alone; it also says something about how Wolfe feels about Lily that he doesn't suggest they go off alone.) Or maybe he can tell how Archie's uncomfortable with her, it must be telegraphed pretty loudly because I don't see Archie as a good liar (to Wolfe, and also Archie's behavior with Lily does seem to deviate from his usual interested/aggressive behavior.)


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September 2015

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