Rubenfeld's idea, we read, began with "the intense hostility that Freud developed toward the United States after his visit there in 1909" and took the form of a mystery based on killing off the famous Freud patient Dora.
At first he just made up details about New York in 1909, he said. But when he showed it to a friend, an avid reader of historical novels, she balked when she learned none of the details were accurate.Extensive... long... is the NYT trying to tell us something?
Over the next six months he researched the history of New York in the early 20th century. The next draft included extensive factual details about famous buildings and historical events, as well as long passages about Freud’s theories.
Most of the article is about the way publishers try to make a book a bestseller by putting lots of money behind it. The sheer act of putting lots of money behind it is itself a way to attract attention, even before you start spending the money to buy publicity. The Times is, no doubt, weary of this game.
I guess I should take a look at the book and provide you with some first-hand opinion. I don't read many novels, and the ones I choose for myself are almost never -- well, never -- the sorts of historical novels and mysteries that make the bestseller lists. If I want to read about history, I'd rather go with nonfiction written by a historian, and as for mysteries, I've just never been interested. What difference does it make who did it? These are just fictional characters made up for the purpose of teasing us by making it seem as if each one could have done it and withholding key pieces of information so you can't tell which one until the end. I'm sure there's more charm to it than that, but I don't know, because, as I've said, I don't read them. I think I've read about five mysteries in my life. Look, I can name them: "Gaudy Night," "The Three Coffins," "Death in a Tenured Position," and maybe something by Agatha Christie and something by Georges Simenon.
Anyway, if I do take a look at "The Interpretation of Murder," which I'm horribly unlikely to read all the way through, the main thing I would care about is how well Rubenfeld has figured out a way to depict Sigmund Freud. He'd better not just be a guy spouting Freudian observations! So Freud hated America? That's the germ of Rubenfeld's idea? The phenomenon of America-hating by self-important Europeans could have some meat to it. As to what the lamp posts looked like in New York in 1909, I don't need a lawprof to put it into words.
UPDATE: It's 6:28 pm, the same day the original post was written. Most of today I spent reading "The Stranger," prompted by another post written today, which now has an update. I also sat down for 20 minutes or so to skim "The Interpretation of Murder," and that was enough to satisfy myself that this is simply not the kind of book that I read. In particular, I intensely dislike when a present-day writer affects a style of a past era because his story is set in that era. Every sentence contains a word choice that irritates the hell out of me. This effort to create an aura of the past... what is it for? But I'm not going to savage this book. It's a genre book in a genre I don't care about. I understand that these things exist for people who aren't like me. You folks can decide if this is a good example of things like that.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Let me type out the third sentence in this book to explain what I hate about the prose style. The first two sentences, for reference, are: "There is no mystery to happiness" and "Unhappy men are all alike." Here's the sentence that exemplifies everything that bugs me:
Some wound they suffered long ago, some wish denied, some blow to pride, some kindling spark of love put out by scorn -- or, worse, indifference -- cleaves to them, or they to it, and so they live each day within a shroud of yesterdays.First, how could the editor not detect and expunge the "denied"/"pride" rhyme that shockingly informs us of the author's lack of ear?
Second, "cleaves" is an idiotically archaic word. You have to ask yourself why you'd ever use it instead of "clings." But what's worse is that the subjects to that verb just aren't cleaving things. A "wound" doesn't cleave. A "spark" doesn't cleave. A "blow" doesn't cleave.
And why bother to dress up "spark" with the adjective "kindling"? It's a redundancy that was daubed onto the sentence to try to make it sound like 1909, whatever the hell 1909 sounds like.
And why drag in "a shroud"? We've already got too many images: a wound, a blow, a spark, cleaving. Now, we've got a shroud in that sentence too? Blah! I shrink with bone-chilling horror at the deathly shroud of moribund prose that dangles limply from the author's limblike arms, as he threatens ominously to envelopingly enwrap me in it ... or it in me.