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The Grand Complication (2001)

by Allen Kurzweil

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8422818,091 (3.36)32
Critically acclaimed for his international bestseller, "A Case of Curiosities," Kurzweil presents "The Grand Complication"--a modern-day tale of literary intrigue, deviant passions, and delicious secrets.
Recently added bygeejaco, Rivaton, QLibrary-Light, private library, amvs, amyjponce, jwkennedy, Jorge_Borges
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» See also 32 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Another one bites the dust, I think this is 3 in a row now. At least I'm clearing off some of my bookshelves. I told my wife that I feel like we're watching/reading the Gong Show lately. After about 50 pages the cane starts to come out, the book desperately tries to get better, but ultimately fails. This one got to about 85 pages.

It was witty and I can see how library geeks could be more interested in this, but it didn't really seem to be going anywhere. Seeing as I read Kurzweil's other book (and loved it) a LONG time ago, I didn't even get any cool links between the two books (and it was starting to become obvious that there were some). ( )
  ragwaine | May 16, 2020 |
The basic plot seems simple enough: a rich older gentleman hires a research librarian to help him track down an object that once resided in a compartmentalized case (in fact, the case is the eponymous Case of Curiosities from Kurzweil’s first novel). The search, its results, and its aftermath form the framework of the book. But hidden within this seemingly bland framework is a story as wonderfully complex as an Escher print: characters are not who they seem to be; motivations are called into question; and vital bits of information dance just out of our reach.

Kurzweil is a powerfully evocative writer. His scenes in the research library make you feel like you can reach out and touch the books (and oh! such books: Secret Compartments in Eighteenth-Century Furniture, The Universal Penman, Hints on Husband Catching, or A Manual for Marriageable Misses—and that’s just from the first 30 pages). Jesson’s home is described in all of its opulent splendor, with special attention given to yards of books and the shelving thereof (are you sensing a pattern?). Thankfully, even non-book-oriented places are described well.
When an author is this attentive to setting, character can sometimes be lost. But Kurzweil sidesteps this trap neatly, giving us a cast of exuberantly eccentric characters who nonetheless manage to ring true. Everyone from the petty research library bureaucrats to the narrator’s tempestuous girlfriend is limned with just enough detail to make their various eccentricities believable.

The Grand Complication is a Chinese treasure-box of a novel—just when you’re certain you know what’s going on, you find another hidden compartment with new information in it. The writing is beautiful, the plot is compelling, and the characters are a joy to spend time with. Stop listening to me natter on about it and pick it up for yourself. I think you’ll enjoy the read.
( )
1 vote Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
A librarian gets mixed up with an elderly eccentric in his obsessive search for a stolen watch.

This is a mystery written for people who like to read about people doing research, or who enjoy books filled with literary allusions and jokes. I was mildly enjoying it, but it pretty much falls apart in the third act. If you like books about books, or if you worship libraries and librarians, you may like this book. But I imagine its appeal is fairly narrow. ( )
  sturlington | Sep 5, 2014 |
I liked this book a lot. It slowly reveals what is really happening and shares some of the mystery and intricacy of the subject: antique multi-function chronometers. I had a hard time putting it down. A fun read. ( )
  jguenther | May 17, 2013 |
On interesting concept but slow moving and not all that interesting. Really nerdy characters. ( )
  EctopicBrain | Jul 31, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kurzweil, Allenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wit, J.J. deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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You have all heard of people whom the loss of their books has turned into invalids, or of those who in order to acquire them became criminals. These are the very areas in which any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness.... And indeed, if there is a counterpart to the confusion of a library, it is the order of its catalogue.

— Walter Benjamin, Illuminations
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For my father
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The search began with a library call slip and the gracious query of an elegant man.
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