RARA-AVIS: How Like A God by Rex Stout

From: Dave ( davezelt@comcast.net)
Date: 15 Mar 2004

I had gone through all the Nero Wolfe books about 25 years ago and have been wanting for a long time to read How Like A God. I finally got my hands on a copy. It is simply one of the more brilliantly written and bleak noir books I've encountered. The only thing in common this has with Stout's Nero Wolfe series is that it is masterfully written. The book was published in 1929, and only in a few places feels at all dated. The book follows thirty soome odd years of the protagonist, Will Sidney, jumping back and forth between different events in his life. This character is for the most part disconnected from his life, the course his life takes seems to be at the whim of those around him, and as things progress he goes far off course from any sense of normalcy. There's a desperation in his search for a connection to something, anything. Written in the second person, and, along with the way the time sequence shifts around, it leaves you feeling almost as disconnected as Sidney. Here's an excerpt from it:

You spluttered, raving, your face almost touching hers, and all at once you saw two glistening drops of yor saliva appear on her cheek, beside her mouth, but she did not lift her hand to remove them; they remained there, shining like silver bubbles. For an instant you gazed at them, fascinated; then, dropping yor handkerchief into her lap and saying,
"Wipe off your face," you stepped back and stood there looking at her.

"You don't need to spit on me," she said. As though suddenly hypnotized into an immobility to match your own, you stood and watched the accurate and inevitable movements of her hand as she picked up the handkerchief, damp with your perspiration, and rubbed it back and forth across her cheek; always the same, the same as when she is eating the candy you bring her or unbuttoning your clothes ...

Oh yeah, this was Stout's first book. And a hell of a first book!


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