NERO WOLFE SERIES: WIT & WISDOM OF REX STOUT
Fate was sitting on his desk and having his way when I read Rex Stout ‘s fer-de-lance without knowing what I was getting into. I was pessimistic as I started, it was supposed to be filled with platitudes. It had a brilliant and eccentric detective with an ordinary yet dedicated assistant or so I assumed.
4 books and 7 days later, I was both overwhelmed and flummoxed. Overwhelmed as I was a fan boy again and had a series to look forward to in the coming months. Flummoxed as to how I had never heard about Mr Nero Wolfe in the past. As it turned out, I was wrong. Nevertheless, a pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises.
Nero Wolfe, the brilliant and eccentric detective was rotund and lazy, loved to eat, a man of routine, crazy about his orchids and his beer bottle caps, and uber possessive about his surroundings. The man would never leave his house barring unforeseen, rarest of circumstances. His life was wrapped around his schedule and the manner in which he tried to wrap other things around it, was picturesque. The loyal assistant was anything but ordinary. Archie Goodwin, the legs to do the ground work, was intense, smart, witty, sarcastic and justified his payroll. A superlative in strong supporting protagonist, his quips would ensure both Wolfe and I stayed on track. Together they would catch the killer and annoy the hell out of cops and prosecutors alike.
Now I hope you can understand how gratifying this surprise was for me. An obese eccentric detective, a loyal assistant who takes lunch money from cops, an exquisite chef for their palate and orchids on the rooftop of their house, which by the way, is the epicentre of almost all their stories.Someone pushes the doorbell and things are set in motion. But the buck doesn’t stop there.
What separates Rex Stout and Nero Wolfe series from the rest is the writing. It is just poetic. It is as invigorating as sitting next to a gushing river skipping over the boulders. Seldom I’ll read with the same level of interest and loyalty once I’ve figured out the man behind the trigger. Routine yet eloquent small talks keeps you absorbed throughout. Not only Wolfe and Archie are superlatives in what they do, the other characters created are quirky and intriguing as well. The banter between Archie Goodwin & Nero Wolfe are a pleasure to read. When Archie pushes the buttons of Wolfe, you are also smirking within. The unrestrained attitude of Wolfe which almost looks similar to a man without a moral compass forces me to look for adjectives. Thus, the good writing takes care of any irrelevancies, if present.
Lastly the quotes, the wit and wisdom of Rex stout. While both Archie and Wolfe are dogs without leashes, most of the biting is done by Nero Wolfe. He has established himself as an eccentric personality and misuses it often. He doesn’t alter his ways on someone else’s whim.
“I understand the technique of eccentricity; it would be futile for a man to labor at establishing a reputation for oddity if he were ready at the slightest provocation to revert to normal action.”
Often his small talks are pungent.
“The avoidance of idiocy should be the primary and constant concern of every intelligent person. It is mine. I am sometimes successful.”
Sometimes he states the obvious to vex others
“A man may debar nonsense from his library of reason, but not from the arena of his impulses.”
and sometimes the bitter truth is enough to have the same impact.
“We are all vainer of our luck than of our merits.”
He is courteous but direct
“If I show you my mind, it is only to save time and avoid irrelevancies”
and makes sure that he always have a final say over things
“If the hen has come home to roost & I am to pluck it for you, I must be permitted a voice in the method”
There is a long list of gems from him which one can frame and sell with the images of orchids, just an idea for the modern entrepreneur. This attempt is just to arouse your curiosity in Mr Wolfe and the adventures of his assistant Mr Archie. These are my reasons for being so enthusiastic about the remaining books of Nero Wolfe series. I’ll suggest the uninitiated to pick one for the late night reading as well. Once you are done with one of their tales, that will make all the difference.