Re: RARA-AVIS: Thanks for all the help

From: Bob Toomey (
Date: 17 Jan 2000

Doug Bassett wrote:

> Regarding Cornell Woolrich: I wanted to mention that
> I, too, have to be in the mood for Woolrich/Irish.
> I've only read a few things by him (WALTZ INTO
> DARKNESS, I MARRIED A DEAD MAN, one half-remembered
> book under the Irish pseudonym which had to do with a
> man and a woman spending one night in NYC racing
> against time to prove the man innocent of murder) and
> based on that I think the guy's overrated.

I've always felt that Woolrich was much better as a short story writer than as a novelist. His plotting generally makes heavy use of coincidence, which is less of a problem at the shorter length. For me, his novels feel padded, stretching the idea and the coincidences out to absurd length. Of course, everything he wrote is absurd to some extent. Readers who feel that a story simply must make sense should skip Woolrich. But there are rewards. Nobody has ever done a better job of capturing the desperation, dislocation and paranoia of a meaningless universe where God is out to get you, and innocence is never enough to save your ass. Try NIGHTWEBS, a fine, fat collection of Woolrich's short stories, edited by his biographer, Francis M. Nevins, Jr.


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