December 07, 2004



All right, sir, you have done the trick--I've had Cullin's book in the TBR for ages and it's getting moved up pronto.

Jimmy Beck

I am a major Chabon fan and was disappointed by TFS--I'm not sure why. Maybe it felt too mannered; it gave neither the visceral thrills and chills of Kavalier & Clay nor the Cheever-esque-hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck of his best short stories (A Model World or some of the ones in Werewolves in their Youth). It's funny you mention Kinsey--Boyle's book (The Inner Circle) was anything but overheated, IMO. It was written in this cold, clinical style--very Martin Amis, I thought, and that's not a compliment in my book.

Dan Wickett

First of all Mark, excellent compare and contrast review. I don't have either book but if I go the Holmes route, you've persuaded me as to which to look for.

As for Jimmy's TCB comment = he nailed it in my opinion. It's like Boyle decided he would write it in the style that Kinsey supposedly performed all of these tests and surveys - clinically. As if he was proving that sex could in fact be cold and uninspiring. Unfortunately it made for a less than exciting read. It's too bad because I liked the narrator's relationship with both his wife, and with Kinsey. It was one of the more substantial love storis Boyle's included in a novel - rivaling that in Riven Rock.

Thanks for the 1000 (plus) words.



Very balanced and insightful review, Mark. While I have not read either book, I appreciate the comparisons you've made, and the contexts in which you've placed them. Now if I can only make you promise that you'll write many, many more in-depth reviews in the future!

Jim Ruland

Exellent work, monsignor. Did you hear that Caleb Carr is going to publish a Sherlock Holmes book, too? You would think that after sharing a subject with E.L. Doctorow (Alienist and Waterworks, respectively) and getting bitchslapped in the process, he'd stay avoid unfavorable comparisons and just stick to being unfavorable.

Brendan Wolfe

Great review. Your idea of Holmes as the worker bee reminded me of Ciaran Carson's "Shamrock Tea." Carson connects bees and Holmes thematically through the famous Holmes quote that from a single drop of water one could infer the possibility of an Atlantic Ocean. Holmes solves mysteries through logical inferences and this, according to Carson, is also how bees make their way in the world.

"The seething comb of black and amber bodies seemed without purpose, but he knew that this was far from the case: by dancing, by touch, by scent, by the vibrations of their wings, bees communicated a map of the immediate nectar-bearing countryside." And they do all this, Carson alliteratively explains, with eyes that operate on "a high flicker-fusion frequency." In other words, their vision consists of "isolated frames connected by darkness." It's up to the bee, then, to connect the dots.

Jenny D

Yes, thanks! V. good piece. I love Chabon but your review confirms my feeling that I will read TFS soon but am not willing to pay full price for it in a bookstore. The sordid truth.

There is a WONDERFUL essay in this week's New Yorker about all this Holmes stuff, and the mysterious death of the world's foremost Holmes expert. It's by the same guy who wrote the excellent giant squid piece not too long ago. I am due for a rereading of all the Holmes stories, I think... he's a sort of presiding saint for the novel I've just finished, in any case.


It's been noted nearly everywhere that TFS was originally a short story for The Paris Review. I am curious as to what, if any, changes there are between the original story and this newly printed edition.

Also, should I read "Zeitgeist can be one unruly mother" in the Freudian sense or in the Isaac Hayesian sense?

Thank you Mark for the continued excellent work.


Hayes. Most definitely Hayes. Was actually spelled "muthah" in draft one.

Thanks everyone for such kind words. Hope to provide more of the same down the line.


Great review Mark! As a Holmes fan, I am excited about the recent hoopla.


M.J. Rose

Terrific work, Mark. It was meaty and worth the wait.


Great essay/review, Mark. While I'm a Chabon fan, I'm really glad to see you champion Cullin's book, especially since I've always thought he's one of the best & most underrated American writers around. I hear Terry Gilliam is turning his novel TIDELAND into a movie, so maybe that will also give his Sherlock book the attention it deserves.

Evan Electrician

Thanks for the excellent information! I an a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and the Meyer books sound perfect for some fresh reading material with this character. I had no idea that someone was creating more reading material on this theme and look forward to seeing if it matches the classic style which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle started.

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