Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Final Solution

An unnamed 89-year-old Sherlock Holmes. A nine-year-old mute Jewish refugee. Hives of honey bees imported from Texas. An African gray who recites numbers in German. A murder and a parrot kidnapping and World War II proceeding in the background. A poignant chapter narrated from the perspective of the gray. These are the elements that make up Michael Chabon's latest, A Final Solution.

"The application of creative intelligence to a problem, the finding of a solution at onced dogged, elegant, and wild, this had always seemed to him to be the essential business of human beings--the discovery of sense and causality amid the false leads, the noise, the trackless brambles of life. And yet he had always been haunted--had he not?--by the knowledge that there were men, lunatic cryptographers, mad detectives, who squandered their brilliance and sanity in decoding and interpreting the messages in cloud formation, in the letters of the Bible recombined, in the spots on butterflies' wings. One might, perhaps, conclude from the existence of such men that meaning existed solely in the mind of the analyst. That it was the insoluble problems--the false leads and the cold cases--that reflected the true nature of things. That all the apparent significance and pattern had no more intrinsic sense than the chatter of an African gray parrot. One might so conclude; really, he thought, one might."

I read the version that's in summer 2003's Paris Review. Once the novella shows up at the library I'll skim through to see how much, if any, was added.

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