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[personal profile] soupytwist posting in [community profile] milk_and_orchids
This is quintessential, middle-of-the-road Stout, right down to opening the story with Archie doing his best to irritate Wolfe with cutesiness. Wolfe gets approached by the Hawthorne sisters to solve the mystery of their brother's will. Wolfe of course wants to say no, but events, the Brownstone's rapidly decreasing bank balance, and the gods that rule all detective novels mean Wolfe is soon investigating a murder.

Well, two murders. But the first one gets introduced with some of my favourite dialogue of the book:

“Well... am I to accept your facts?”
“Yes. They are unassailable.”
“Then they're unique. However, postulating them, Mr Hawthorne was murdered.”

It's just classic Wolfe. I do enjoy Wolfe's particular brand of snarky/logical smackdowns.

After a lot more of that, and another murder, it turns out it all hinges on some photographs taken by June's daughter Sara, who took up random photography as an appropriately quirky but cheap hobby she could manage as a Hawthorne on a budget. Wolfe gets the killer to confess, in a scene I find weirdly unsatisfying; maybe because it's sort of creepy but not full on 'gets the killer to commit suicide' creepy. Oh, and Wolfe nearly gets arrested, but it's okay because Archie finds this funny enough to keep the warrant in his Drawer Of Ever So Slightly Weird Wolfe Memorabilia.

More specific stuff:

The Ladies

This is a particularly female-inhabited book, with the Hawthornes and Naomi Karn and Daisy and Celia, and Sara whose photography habit ends up saving the day. It's certainly not perfect on gender issues – Archie's initial meeting with Naomi would be so much more awesome if she didn't turn out to be kinda-a-baddie! - but it's a lot better than some. The variety of women involved is nice, and it makes a refreshing change from the usual testosterone.

The Hawthorne sisters themselves I love! They're fun. I also like that they come in with a shout-out to Glenna McNair – I liked her, too, and I enjoy the things that pull in the rest of the universe to make it seem solid. This is also how I see the otherwise slightly weird references to political scandal and the Argentinian ambassador.: there was never any chance that was anything actually to do with it, because political shenanigating wouldn't have made anyone mess with the original will, but as part of a general sense that these are characters who live in the world, it worked for me.

I like Sara too, actually, even though she's a bit wet in some ways; I like that she has an actual background and a response to it, a motivation for her hobby that makes her more than just That Girl Who Likes Taking Photographs. (Also, it helps that I find the idea of Archie going all Srs Bzness Detective poring over the photos really kind of adorable. )

Archie's interactions with women are, I think, less weird in this book than they are in a lot of them – maybe it's just because there's quite a few. I do like his observation that “I would have died for her on the spot if I hadn't been busy taking notes” though. It is SO ARCHIE IT HURTS. What kind of ladies man spends half his time explaining why he's not doing clearly ridiculous and OTT lady-loving things? Archie Goodwin!

Archie Gets Entirely Freaked Out By Disability, Part Whatever

Daisy the tragic lady in a veil is kind of placed by the text, and specifically Archie being really freaked out by her, as a different sort of being entirely: it's definitely time for the Hey, World, Being Physically Different Doesn't Make You Evil PSA. Archie's response is entirely consistent with his previously being creeped out by Paul Chapin, but also, I thought, kind of flagged up as being really weird! I mean, he is seriously, irrationally creeped out, and nobody else is (or at least not to that extent). I just:

pitched high, with a strain in it that gave me the impression it wasn't coming from a mouth.

I don't know about anyone else, but I found that Stephen King levels of creepy. Urgh!

Archie once punched out a Cuban woman for turning wanting to stab Wolfe, but give him someone physically disfigured and he's “gulping down repugnance till I could feel it sticking in my throat.” That is not a restrained or typical reaction! The more I think about it the weirder that seems; nobody else is freaking out, and it really looks like a pattern of Archie specifically having some kind of personal phobic reaction to physical disability/deformity.

It's especially interesting to me because Daisy is very clearly inspired by a Sherlock Holmes story which also featured a veiled woman with an similarly scarred face whose husband mistreated her. But there's none of that gonna-puke panic response in that story at all.

(It also doesn't have the “I saw Mrs Hawthorne downstairs, or at least someone in a veil” plotpoint of anviliciousness; I kind of get the feeling Stout was like “Hey! Under a veil, COULD BE SOMEONE ELSE! I should put that in a book!” Which, bless him.)

Whatever else he might be changing or exaggerating for his readers, I think it's pretty fair to say that Archie has some fairly major Creepy Cripple issues, eh?

Wolfe has Left The Brownstone! I repeat, Wolfe has Left The Brownstone!

Fred: “But Jesus, Archie, he'll get killed or something.”
Archie: “Don't I know it?”

Hah, I love that Archie apparently has whole conversations with his colleagues about how without him, Wolfe is going to FALL DOWN A HOLE. But more specifically, in this book Wolfe voluntarily leaves the Brownstone, and Archie discovers that what a genius detective does with a two minute head start is 'run for the hills'.

Personally, I found Wolfe and Archie both hating the lunch and Wolfe then running for it kind of hilarious – partly because I have a really vivid metal image of Archie Goodwin, Man of Dignity, trying to get back into his own house later. But it occurred to me that Wolfe running off without even hinting beforehand could be seen as kind of mean. Or is it again so that Archie won't have to lie to the cops about knowing where Wolfe is?

Wolfe and Archie (And Archie and Fritz) Cuteness
Archie is “touched” to find that Wolfe has delayed dinner half an hour for him after he's late taking Naomi Karns home. Awwwwww. I think I love this because that's just exactly the sort of little gesture that you notice and get way invested in when it's someone you really care about. I did the 'hearts!' gesture.

Archie feels the need to add in his note to Wolfe re the two Daisys that Naomi Karns scorns him and says Archie's not funny! Also, he signs off with “I resign., which” is totally funny because you know he mostly adds that every now and again to see if Wolfe's reading. Hee. I also like this as an illustration of how completely settled the Wolfe/Archie relationship is at this point: the “I resign” is clearly not intended to come over as serious in any way, it's never even brought up again, and I don't know if that would work even half as well early on in the series. Before you know Archie almost never means it, the casual way it's handled would, I think, seem a bit incongruous or odd.

Wolfe says of Archie that “Without him I'm an ear without a tympanum” - or, an ear without an eardrum. Aww.

Though, to be fair, he did call Archie his ame damnee before, which is rather less flattering! And Archie says that he's a “helot”. Helots were slaves in ancient Sparta and treated pretty badly to the point where once a year they were officially allowed to be hunted in the equivalent of Helot-hunting season. I being me however... went straight to the 'hahah, Archie just said their relationship was Greek' place. I will admit I spend a lot of my time mentally aged about five.

Archie is not happy that Wolfe thinks Johnny Keems is also good with the ladies! He seems genuinely miffed - “The rhinocerous had the idiotic idea that when Johnny looked at a girl and smiled she melted like ice cream in the summer sun. The fact is – oh, what's the difference. He'll marry a pickpocket's daughter for her money.” I believe the phrase is “Ow, dude, harsh.” I also wondered if anyone had theories as to what he almost-says, there...

Archie gets worried enough about on-coming relapse to sit still and silent for ten whole minutes. I feel this has to be some kind of record.

Archie also has a lot of cuteness with Fritz in this book! They have a food fight, even – or at least chuck rolls across the kitchen at each other giggling. Bless. And when Wolfe leaves Archie in the lurch, Archie says “All I wanted to do was phone the house and ask Fritz how he was.” Although I have my suspicions that this actually means “I wanted to ring up the house and go FRITZ IS EVERYTHING OKAY IS WOLFE THERE WHAT DO YOU KNOW HE JUST LEFT ME IN THIS HOUSE OF CRAZY PEOPLE”, it's cute however you slice it.

When Fred rings up all “I'VE GOT A CORPSE OMG”, Archie can fake an orchid emergency like no-one's business and Wolfe gets exactly what he's on about! I love how good they are at communicating, in their own weird and adorable way. Cattleya mossiae really are from Venezuela, too; I got quite into looking that stuff up and Stout really was just as much an orchid nerd as expected, it seems. I love that Archie has also got that; he's not as much a plant geek as Wolfe is, of course, but he knows enough to bust that out off the top of his head. Aww!

Trust and Honour

“Is that straight?”
“Yes, sir. I would have no compunction about lying to you, but that's straight.”
“I'll take it that way.”

Trust and honour and the reliability of your word are very very big in Wolfe world. I thought this little exchange particularly illuminating on that front; there's a very strong sense that being honest and honourable even when lying or committing criminal acts is the important thing. Beating someone up with vaguely decent motives is not particularly shown as problematic; faking a will and thereby abusing the trust and good name of your company are, even without the whole murder part of it.

Random Misc

Wolfe fired Fred for a month because he added vinegar to a brown roux sauce, and Fred is STILL banished to the kitchen! I laughed a lot, but poor Fred! Fred kind of really gets the short end of the stick in this book, even though Archie admits it can be useful that he knows so many barmen...

Then one of the more unlikely bits:

“There, after finishing the milk, I undraped my form, shaved my legs and removed my eyelashes, and dropped languorously into the arms of the sandman.”

UM, OKAY, ARCHIE? I am all for Archie's right to use whatever modes of expression he likes best, but seriously, if this were written more recently, Archie's slightly flame-y tendencies wouldn't be in doubt. I'm just saying. I also loved:

“Good morning, Jeeves. I'm Lord Goodwin.”

Hee. As good as Archie's saying“on the bed in a coma sequential to acute inebriation”, i.e. passed out in a drunken stupour, haha. Archie also says he has “lovely smooth skin”, fact-checkers!

Wolfe apparently “theoretically knew how to drive” - I don't think we knew this before, and I find it interesting, given his apparent response to motorized vehicles of any kind.

“Gosh, that wasn't cute,” I protested.

Me: Ahahaha Archie you can't claim not to be cute while using the word 'gosh'.

“It was too damn hot to throw something at him. I merely made a disrespectful noise, beat it out to the pavement where the roadster was parked, climbed in, and was on my way.”

Does this mark another instance of Archie blowing raspberries like a five year old, do we think?

Right, I think that's most of my thoughts done. I really enjoyed this. What did everyone else think?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-05-30 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
I had to put in the blockquotes that I just learned about =)

I liked how Archie used the word 'gulosity', he really does have hidden depths! I also liked Wolfe's note to Archie that says "I am not at home." Now, maybe I'm forgetting (please correct me!), but don't the notes from Wolfe to Archie ALWAYS go:
blah blah blah

But here Wolfe uses 'Archie' instead of AG. I haven't decided what I think about it yet! Archie also eats an anchovy omelet for breakfast at home, which strikes me as one of the oddest things he ever has in the morning! (I recall scrapple and griddle cakes as the constants.) I also like how Archie refers to his fear at the possibility of Wolfe relapsing when he says "Any fear that Wolfe had actually dived into a relapse was removed" when some other guys come to see Wolfe.

The whole episode is interesting:
I was plenty relieved, but I was still determined that if communication was going to be re-established it wouldn't be through any advances by me. I knew he was up in the plant rooms because I had heard his elevator. Then I took a step. A phone call came from Inspector Cramer. I talked with him, and hung up, and buzzed the plant rooms on the inside wire. Wolfe answered.

I addressed him formally. "Good morning. Inspector Cramer of the homicide squad just phoned...

"I said in that note that I'm not at home."

"You can't continue being not at home indefinitely. ...An hour later, at the customary time, eleven o'clock, his elevator descended and he entered the office. I waited until he was holding his chair down and then stated to him:

"I see you intend to brazen it out. I admit nothing is to be gained by a prolonged controversy. All I say is, that was the most preposterous goddam performance in the entire history of the investigation of crime. That's all. Now for my report -"

"There was nothing preposterous about it. It was the only sensible -"

"You couldn't sell me that in a thousand years. Do you want my report?"

He sighed, leaned back, and half closed his eyes. He looked as fresh as a daisy, and about as shame-faced as a fan dancer. "Go ahead."

I gave it to him, complete, from memory, for I had made no notes. It took quite a while. He asked no questions and let me go to the end without any interruption. When I was through he sighed again, sat up, and rang for beer.

I find the fan dancer line interesting. I also liked how Wolfe refers to 'us' ("It's hopeless. I mean for us.") and the way he does his 'personal questioning' of Archie, ie.:
"...I might get the truth if I worked hard enough for it, but what would I do with it? Could I establish it? How? ...And I don't want it myself if I can't use it. Especially at the price it would cost. Do I?"

"No, sir. But you could use a little deposit at the bank."

I also found this exchange interesting, I guess from the domestic/assistant angle--it really made me feel for Wolfe, because trying to convey your wishes to your amanuensis/personal assistant can be so annoying--Archie's lack of immediate action/obedience here to me seems trying for Wolfe, and I think it's a great moment because it shows how Wolfe 'has to put up with Archie.' Typically I think of it as 'how Archie (our normal everyman narrator) deals with that eccentric genius', but here I think we get to see (a little bit) the opposite view:
"Get Miss Dunn. At once."

I stared. "She didn't offer any reward for its recovery."

"Get her, please! This is our first chance to pick up something that was dropped. It may be only a thieving servant, but I doubt it, with the films gone too. Do the others know she told you about it?"

"Andy and Celia do. I can't phone her, because the cops -"

"I didn't say phone her! I said get her! Bring her here!"

It's also interesting that Wolfe asks a woman to take her hat off, but lets her sit on the arm of his chair--with her hand on his shoulder to balance herself! She only stops when she gets tired of it. If I am reading this wrong tell me! :
Wolfe got up and stood scowling at Sara. "Would you mind removing your hat, Miss Dunn? I deduce the thing is a hat, because it's on your head. Thank you. I don't like restaurant conventions in my dining room." ...
... (Wolfe) sat down ... I started to move a chair up for her, but she waved me away and sat on the arm of his, balancing herself with her hand on his shoulder. He grimaced but took it.
... "Sara got tired of balancing on the chair arm and resumed her former seat at the end of the desk."

I also liked this moment because of how the woman correctly 'deduces' what Wolfe is doing AS Archie says that only he knows what Wolfe's strange lips/eyes shut thing really is--and I love how here (and many other times) Archie leaves out his (mental/emotional) reaction to something (in this case the woman's words.) I find that Archie seems to leave out LOADS of things as I read the books, and often declines to give away too much about himself :
Wolfe was through, too. He was leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed. I watched him. His lips were moving, pushing out and thickening, and then closing in again to make a thin line. I watched him, and wondered whether he really had something or was only bluffing. If he was bluffing it could have been only for my benefit, for Sara Dunn didn't know what that movement of his lips meant.

Suddenly she demanded, "Well? Are you deducing something?"

I also like the part where Wolfe reacts to Archie grabbing a woman who's about to scream/run/who knows/be a 'cyclone' as Archie says--Wolfe's comment about not liking Archie's face as he holds the woman in check/silent is interesting. It's almost like (how someone said he doesn't want Archie to be 'degraded'/affected morally by lying) Wolfe doesn't want to see/have Archie get his hands dirty. I think Wolfe's house is his 'paradisal recuperation zone', and one of the essential parts is his Greek style, young and beautiful errand boy Archie. I think he doesn't want Archie to set out of his not super violent/good moral character zone--because of his past where he got to see a lot of terrible human action, and also because he needs/& wants Archie to be separate from that (and knowing that he caused Archie to change would be horrible for him.)

I think Archie's generally happy, witty, energetic presence in the house really completes the 'perfect' life Wolfe wants to enjoy 24/7 (with unfortunate little pockets of work D:)--he's got (for him) the perfect house, an almost 'perfect' plant collection, experts to deal w/ the plants and food, and a companion. So he really never has to leave the house, not even for one of the most normal human reasons walking out a front door--social life. (And of course some of his friends visit him sometimes, but I see Archie as his constant social life-person.)

This is the passage I was referring to:
...when I gathered her in. I did it promptly and neatly, with my left arm clamping both her arms and her body above the waist, and my right hand smothering her mouth and nose and pushing the back of her head into my ribs. She couldn't even kick, because my knees had her legs pinned against the desk.

Wolfe asked, "Are you hurting her?"

"Not to speak of."

He grunted, got up and came around the desk, and retrieved the envelope from her left hand. ... He ambled back to his chair and deposited himself, and told me with a frown, "I don't like the look on your face when you're doing things like that. Turn her loose."

"She may scream."

"Then hold on a minute," (then Wolfe convinces her not to scream/run etc, and then finally tells Archie to let her go)

I will probably have more to say later =) The books are so intricate and the character interaction is very interesting/complex.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-06-01 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
Personally I don't see Archie as a past potential thug, just because I think he has a lot of moral character. I mean other than not 'taking advantage' of being Wolfe's confidant/man he relies on, Archie is also usually fair and doesn't like 'cheat/steal because he can', etc. I also think the fact that he chooses to accept Wolfe's job offer is also indicative of the kind of man he is--the situation couldn't be farther than what most of us assume Archie's previous life was like, but he not only accepts, he treats Wolfe and Fritz (and Marko) with respect (in the non-xenophobia, strange customs acceptance, etc.)

I don't think Archie's job could have been given to another person, or that Archie was 'saved' in the moral/thug/etc way by Wolfe. I think Archie had to start out being a pretty special person for Wolfe to want to secure him for himself. While Archie IS always paranoid some other guy could take his job, I think that's just his possessiveness coming through; I'm like that myself. I think the job really ends up being 'be Wolfe's BFF and pseudo-spouse'--I can't see the other guys like Gore, Orrie etc being able to: put up with Wolfe, get him to work/out of relapses, care about him at all to the degree Archie does, talk with Wolfe at meals, learn about orchids and keep the records, keep Wolfe honest and call him on what you should call him on, obey his every whim, protect him, drive him etc --- and the thing I think that's the most odd is how much time they spend together. I can't see Wolfe tolerating many people day after day, in the office, at lunch and dinner, talking after dinner, etc etc-- like in the final Zeck book when Wolfe says (**This is when they reunite in the last Zeck book):
"How long," Wolfe asked, "have you and I spent, there in the office, discussing some simple affair such as the forging of a check?"
"Oh, anywhere from four minutes to four hours."
"Then what should we take for this? By the way, you will resume drawing your pay check this week. How much have you taken from the safe deposit box in New Jersey?"
"Nothing - Not a cent."
"You should have. That was put there for the express purpose of financing this eventuality if it arose. You have been using your personal savings?"
"Only to buy these little items." I waved a hand. "Put it back long ago. I've been taking it easy, so my income from detective work has only been a little more than double what you were paying me."
"I don't believe it."
"I didn't expect you to, so I'll have an audit - "

To me this quote says it all in terms of what I'm trying to say, LOL =) The fact that Wolfe expects that he would have used teh safe deposit money and the fact that Archie never did. To me that offer/expectation of money given and that refusal of the same is what makes their relationship so sincere and unique. I also used this quote because of how it conveys how much time they spend talking to each other (the four hours or four minutes thing.) I think as we read the books we only see one case, so we don't see: Wolfe and Fritz teaching Archie about cuisine, spices, recipes, having him try these dishes and understand what makes it good/the ingredients, Wolfe teaching Archie about things like forged checks, Saul teaching him, W&A talking after dinner for fun, Wolfe teaching Archie about orchids, the different kinds, etc, etc.

I guess I really see (LOL since I am rambling on about it =)) Archie as a pretty good/reformed person when he comes to Wolfe at first. I don't think any normal, xenophobic, low class guy would have been chosen by Wolfe. I mean Wolfe does have excellent taste, LOL. I think that Archie initially shows that for Wolfe and Fritz he puts aside his 'regular joe' xenophobic distaste/feelings for them--maybe that he almost likes them because they are so different and unique. I can imagine them being ready for him to react like a normal person back then, and for him to be far more tolerant of whatever they're doing/saying etc because of his personal affection for them. I think from a cultural point of view it's a great/fascinating clash of culture/time period. Archie being so young in comparison to Wolfe and Fritz is also interesting.

Figuring out what makes them like each other to the great extent that they do is really interesting to me, because once you think you've got it on one side, say Wolfe, you then have to figure out why Archie's so cool with it all! And why he seems to love them all, and love being there. It's like LOL Heisenberg's uncertainty principle! =)!

(no subject)

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(no subject)

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(no subject)

Date: 2010-06-01 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ama_nesciri
Whoops, I forgot to add in this quote from the last Zeck book too--that implies the amount of time W&A spend talking:

Wolfe sighed. "Archie, if we had more time I would let you go on and on. I could shut my eyes and pretend I'm back home." He shook his head vigorously. "But we must get down to business.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-06-12 06:42 pm (UTC)
jest: (orchid)
From: [personal profile] jest
Aggh, I don't have a copy of this one on hand and haven't reread it, but I'm a commenting anyway because you are that awesome! <3

What kind of ladies man spends half his time explaining why he's not doing clearly ridiculous and OTT lady-loving things? Archie Goodwin!

Hell yeah! I think we've established that Archie Goodwin is the oddest ladies man going.

Archie Gets Entirely Freaked Out By Disability, Part Whatever

I had completely forgotten about Daisy the veiled lady!

The more I think about it the weirder that seems; nobody else is freaking out, and it really looks like a pattern of Archie specifically having some kind of personal phobic reaction to physical disability/deformity.

Well spotted! There is SO much in canon to back this up.

But it occurred to me that Wolfe running off without even hinting beforehand could be seen as kind of mean. Or is it again so that Archie won't have to lie to the cops about knowing where Wolfe is?

I think it's the won't have to lie thing. Although, to be honest, if it was just about Archie being uncomfortable for a few hours, Wolfe would probably still high tail it.

“Without him I'm an ear without a tympanum”

Awwww...I want that on an icon!

Johnny KEEEEEEEEEEEEmmmms! I love saying that.

Archie gets worried enough about on-coming relapse to sit still and silent for ten whole minutes. I feel this has to be some kind of record.

So Wolfe's relapses are still present at this point! I'm very curious about when they disappear entirely.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-06-17 01:18 am (UTC)
dorinda: Vintage orange crate label, "Dorinda" brand (Dorinda_label)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
So Wolfe's relapses are still present at this point!

I had forgotten just how worried Archie is about this one. He takes it very seriously--he can diagnose its potential approach just from Wolfe's tone, and "Inwardly I was in a turmoil." Archie indicates that his nerves come largely from them not being at home; I can totally see that, since an introvert like Wolfe, starting to have an attack in a strange place, would be far too likely to just chuck everything and go home simply for the comfort of retreat to the familiar, rationality be damned. It's surprising and fortunate that Archie's tackling of the issue head-on actually works! And even more than head on--Archie actually starts his statement by highlighting and emphasizing the fact that "You are not in your own home." Perhaps that helps shortcut the instinctive reaction, for Archie to put it into words. Yes, you're away from home, you came here willingly, you are beholden to your client-- and actually, looking at it, he uses the line "He invited you here, and you came." Applying to the force of Wolfe's beliefs about the sacred relationship between host and guest, perhaps?

(no subject)

Date: 2010-06-17 01:09 am (UTC)
dorinda: Vintage orange crate label, "Dorinda" brand (Dorinda_label)
From: [personal profile] dorinda
First, off-topic, let me say:

political shenanigating

...okay, now, on to the book!

The more I think about it the weirder that seems; nobody else is freaking out, and it really looks like a pattern of Archie specifically having some kind of personal phobic reaction to physical disability/deformity.

I think this is a good point: the contrast between the Archie-POV sense of Daisy, and the way everyone else behaves/speaks of her, is very telling. Archie as unreliable narrator, with his perceptions thickly filtered through his issues. He really does have a problem!

Wolfe says of Archie that “Without him I'm an ear without a tympanum” - or, an ear without an eardrum. Aww.

I've always loved that! Yet another in a long line of scenes in which someone is suspicious/complainy about Archie's presence, and Wolfe busts out with a fulsome compliment about Archie's importance, all NO WAY HE STAYS. And I don't actually find Wolfe's use of "âme damnée" unflattering to Archie--I find it interesting because it seems to praise Archie to Wolfe's own detriment. At least, according to my understanding of it, which is as a devoted follower who is used as a tool for dirty work--the follower himself is not the source of the dirt, but is the bearer of the burden. A scapegoat of sorts, but one oppressed because of his own loyalty rather than a hapless target. I can see Archie agreeing with that. *g*

I also wondered if anyone had theories as to what he almost-says, there...

I don't have a specific idea, but sometimes I like to think that Archie was about to try to attack (his own assumption of) Wolfe's opinion of Johnny's power over women by pitting his own power up against it--like, "The fact is, I'm better with the ladies than Johnny will EVER BE SO THERE"--but then he dodged at the last minute, perhaps because he realized, even subconsciously, that his own 'power over' and relationship with women is a much more complicated animal than that, and not something he'd actually want to boast about head-on. (And really, if he could notice as we do just how fixated he gets about Wolfe's opinion of other men's sexual magnetism...)

“There, after finishing the milk, I undraped my form, shaved my legs and removed my eyelashes, and dropped languorously into the arms of the sandman.”

LOVE. Sometimes Archie's stern policing of his own masculinity does unwind in wonderful ways!

Wolfe apparently “theoretically knew how to drive” - I don't think we knew this before, and I find it interesting, given his apparent response to motorized vehicles of any kind.

I didn't remember this, and I'm glad you pointed it out! Interesting indeed. Juxtaposed with his discomfort-shading-to-phobia now (just as Archie mentions, with his followup "he would have collapsed with terror at the mere idea"), and it does seem to provide for the possible existence of some kind of traumatic event in his past, so that he did know how but never would (and never had since Archie met him). Unless the "theoretically" merely means he'd read specific enough driving instructions in a book, but I doubt that--Archie seems to believe that the only thing keeping Wolfe from being able to drive himself is his terror, and I sincerely doubt that Archie would believe instructions from a book could substitute for actually having learned hands-on.

Randomly, speaking of Archie as an unreliable narrator, I remembered this bit:

Fred Durkin says I tittered. I did not.

Knowing Archie's tendency to protest-too-much, I'm afraid I'm going to have to believe that he tittered. :D


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