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Marie Tueje's blog.

Clarice Lispector vs Robert Crais

These two authors, seemingly, have little in common. Well, they do have one thing: me. I recently finished reading Lispector's The Hour of the Star and, immediately afterwards, Robert Crais' The Sentry.

Lispector's is a short story, Crais' a full novel, and I would say that they function at completely different ends of the fiction-writing spectrum. Yet I was perplexed by my own relationship to each of these books and wanted to work my way through those feelings. It took me the best part of three weeks to finish The Hour of the Star, whereas I managed The Sentry in around one. For those who don't know, Crais specialises in a kind of page-turning action-hero-with-a-heart thriller, based around the LA private detective Elvis Cole and his un-readable partner in crime, Joe Pike. Crais has churned out around twenty novels over the past thirty years. I seem to have read most of them. I assume his books are popular, but I don't know this. I also couldn't name an author who's similar (Raymond Chandler doesn't count), although there's no way he's a one-off. 

The Hour of the Star was my first encounter with Lispector, an author I had been meaning to tackle for some time. Reading it was hard work. I'm not sure why, exactly.  The rhythms and the cadences, the constant shift between narrator and protagonist. It was hard work, but rewarding. I was reminded of Jeanette Winterson in terms of the fluid use of time and very individualistic use of language. This is one thing that I liked very much, the immersion into an alternative reality, a different and singular world of grammar and language. It made a refreshing change. 

Both books gave me pleasure in their own way. With Crais, one knows what one is getting with his novels and that, presumably, is part of the comfort. One buys into that world and goes with it. Accepts it. Lispector's voice intrigued me and was challenging and rewarding in equal measure, versus the easy, go-to read. The important thing for me, was to recognise that liking both is okay, but at the same time recognise, too, hat I should push myself a little bit harder to enjoy that which is challenging and, ultimately, more rewarding.