Sunday, March 18th, 2007
10:53 am - The Woman...  
Romances. It seems like the best and most powerful strike from out of nowhere when one least expects them. Take Some Buried Caesar, the sixth Nero Wolfe novel, and the second in a row where the action never goes near New York City, much less the brownstone. For all Archie Goodwin's protestations that Wolfe never leaves his abode, he is out and about quite a bit in the early books. This time Archie and Wolfe are upstate on their way to the orchid competition at a county fair when an auto accident sidetracks them into a cow pasture where they are rescued from an unpleasant encounter with a champion bull by a pair of women. As he's dusting himself off, Archie gets clobbered by a freight train named Lily.

"I'll show you the phone." It was a voice behind me, and I turned. The girl in the yellow slacks was there close. I realized with surprise that her head came clear to my chin or above, and she was blonde but not all that faded, and her dark blue eyes were not quite open, and one corner of her lips was up with her smile.

"Come on, Escamillo," she said, "I'll show you the phone."

I told her, "Much obliged," and started off with her.

She brushed against me as we walked and said, "I'm Lily Rowan."

Thus does the woman described by one of the other characters as "a sex maniac" appear in Archie's life. Soon there's a murder to be solved, and Lily is called upon by Wolfe to help expose the killer. It's a good mystery and a fun book. Wolfe is more like Holmes or Poirot here, not waiting for events to come to him, but wandering here and there, examining the evidence in situ. Meanwhile Archie gets arrested, and spends his time in stir organizing his fellow jailmates into a prisoners collective. Lily spends her time being both helpful and adorable. Archie tries to put up a cool, collected front, but Lily knows exactly how to tempt him.

"She wants Escamillo."

I lifted my receiver. "Hello, trifle. I'm busy."

"You're always busy." She sounded energetic. "You listen to me a minute. You probably don't know or don't care that I seldom pay any attention to my mail except to run through it to see if there's a letter from you. I've just discovered that I did after all get an invitation to Nancy's and Jimmy's wedding, which will be tomorrow. I know you did. You and I will go together. You can come—"

"Stop! Stop and take a breath. Weddings are out. They're barbaric vestiges of ... of barbarism. I doubt if I'd go to my own."

"You might. For a string of cellophane pearls I'd marry you myself. But this wedding will be amusing. Old Pratt and old Osgood will be there and you can see them shake hands. Then you can have cocktails and dinner with me."

"My pulse remains steady."

"Kiss me"

"Still steady."

"I'll buy you some marbles and an airgun and roller skates..."

What a woman.
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deborah g: Roman Catsdebg on March 18th, 2007 - 03:51 pm
See, the thing about Lily? She doesn't have to pretend to want to marry anyone, because she doesn't have to worry about the financial aspect of being paid ten cents on the man's dollar and trying to survive without a husband. She's rolling in dough. She never had to cope with the reality that so many women have had to cope with: marriage as the only way out of the economic ghetto.

That money gives her a glorious armour, you know? Lily has no pull whatsoever toward maternity, but since she doesn't have to consider marriage, she can have sex and not worry about it. She doesn't have to croon at babies when she doesn't actually like them. She can pick and choose what she wants and her only dictate is her own sense of self and her own conscience, and guess what, with or without god, country or husband on her back, her conscience is good and sound. She pays no lip service.

What a woman? Oh hell yes. One of the best.
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nestra on March 18th, 2007 - 04:02 pm
Lily sort of irritates me in this book. Don't hate me. It may be because it was one of the later ones I read, but the whole thing strikes me as sort of self-consciously "Look at Lily! Isn't she fabulous and unconventional!"

Whereas in later books, like the final Zeck book (In the Best Families?) she just is awesome.
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deborah g: HallSprawl!debg on March 18th, 2007 - 04:26 pm
"The only woman in America to have necked with Nero Wolfe. My God, I'll treasure it forever!"

She really is sensational in that one, isn't she?
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DXMachinadxmachina on March 18th, 2007 - 04:43 pm
I can see that. I think it's the personna she cultivated whilst dallying with the likes of Jimmy Pratt and Clyde Osgood, a way of keeping them nearby but still at arms length. She starts off that way with Archie, too, but then A) realizes he doesn't buy the act, and b) decides she doesn't exactly want to keep him at arms length.

I have yet to read the Zeck books. I am looking forward to them quite a bit.
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nestra on March 18th, 2007 - 04:51 pm
I have yet to read the Zeck books. I am looking forward to them quite a bit.

!!! That is very exciting. I'm missing one in the middle somewhere, but boy, you're going to love "In the Best Families."
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