Yoko Ogawa’s latest novel to be translated into English, The Housekeeper and The Professor, has been eagerly anticipated following the success of her trilogy of novellas from 2008, The Diving Pool. I’ve yet to read the trilogy but I finished The Housekeeper and The Professor last evening; it was elegant, simple, sprinkled with engaging mathematics and, overall, oddly underwhelming. I fear it’s subtle charm contrasted too markedly with In the Shadow of the Master, a collection of Poe stories and associated essays published by the Mystery Writers of America, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the purple peril’s birth. My review for Maryland Public Radio is excerpted below, and the rest can be heard on WYPR under “Shadowy Master,” dated today.
“Edgar Allen Poe did something most writers, most human beings, do our darndest to avoid; Poe looked straight into the pale blue eye of mortality and decided that death is, actually, not very funny. His overabundant use of exclamation marks, his emphasis on malignancy and loathing, his tendency to write words such as ‘PERVERSION’ or ‘EVIL’ in capital letters, were Poe’s attempts to grab readers by the scruff of the neck. Look, his prose screams, look at our capacity for double-ness! Look at our unavoidably wormy destiny! He presents our appointment with the crypt without the consolation of spirituality or hope… No wonder we respond to its creeping miasma of fear with giggles and winks. If we read Poe’s works in the state of mind in which they were composed, we too might seek solace in opium and the bottle.”