Sunday, May 21, 2006


In rural Connecticut, a story of old artifacts.

Jon Fasman, The Geographer's Library (Penguin, 2005).

Here is a novel that with all sorts of good ideas worked into it -- a small-town reporter in rural Connecticut researches an obituary that leads him into odd places, a collection of storied relics lost for years but re-emerging. Fasman has some characters with potential, including the reporter, the decedent, and a private-school music teacher. But the parts do not come together, and the promise is not fulfilled. Chapters in The Geographer's Library alternates between the Connecticut narrative and the histories of the relics, a device that intrigues at first but ultimately impedes the story's flow -- these histories become interruptions, and Fasman never ties them back into the main story enough to make the interruption worthwhile. Nor do the characters develop. They proceed along their various trajectories; they do not develop -- instead, their facets are revealed. In this, they are more like pieces of a puzzle than human beings. There was a lot of promise here, but not enough pay-off.

I don't mean to be stingy with praise: The story has its rewards, but it would be best not to say to much and spoil it. This is not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, but I hoped for more.

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