October 20th, 2005


Minneapolises and other lands

The other day I was reading Jodi Compton's Sympathy Between Humans, which is a mystery set in Minneapolis. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to people who like mysteries, and it was an accurate Minneapolis, but...it wasn't my accurate Minneapolis. I can't figure out whether War for the Oaks was a more real Minneapolis or just a Minneapolis from closer to my perspective. It looks to me like Emma Bull either loved Minneapolis more while writing that book than Jodi Compton did while writing hers, or else she was more willing to show it.

I don't know; it seemed like for a mystery novel, the Minneapolis she had was maybe the right one. But maybe not: Kate Wilhelm's mysteries are half of them love-songs to Oregon, so apparently that sort of thing can feel appropriate to me in a mystery. And then again, Kate Wilhelm can get away with a lot for me, and she's One Of Us. Not a very good example of the difference between mystery and speculative genres, Kate Wilhelm, for obvious reasons.

I don't know. When I'm reading the mysteries themselves, I'm not always self-conscious about it, but when I think about them, I'm pretty aware of being in a different land than my own. Genre isn't meaningful for every reader, but it's meaningful for me, and mysteries only feel like mine individually, not collectively. So sometimes I try to poke at that and see why it is. I think the answer is somewhere in the difference between Sympathy Between Humans and War for the Oaks, but I could be wrong about that. Happens often, really.