Open City by Teju Cole
Teju Cole is not pretentious. As a writer, art historian, photographer, novelist and an intellectual, he is the real thing. Yet, when first reading this original novel, it is hard not to think that his solitary, observant narrator, of similarly erudite pedigree, isn’t pretentious. The narrator, a researcher at Columbia, and an avid classical music fan, wanders the city after work, encountering various people and scenes and relaying them in an oddly, nineteenth century manner, as if at a lectern, or to a loyal listener willing to stay for the long haul. I admire Cole’s plain rush of detail, the way he lets no process of nuanced thought or observation go untold. This unabashed building of the internal, of the solitary and interior is now unusual in novels which tend to prize action and the “realism” of dialogue within scenes. Yet it’s fascinating to peer into intelligent human minds and relaying the way we think may be the novel’s highest calling. No other art form can do this as precisely and exhaustively. I’m grateful Teju Cole has done it so well.