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 A Family Affair (1975) — Nero Wolfe's Final Case 

A Family Affair.
A worthy ending 75%  75%  [ 3 ]
An anticlimax 25%  25%  [ 1 ]
Total votes : 4

 A Family Affair (1975) — Nero Wolfe's Final Case 
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New post A Family Affair (1975) — Nero Wolfe's Final Case
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You're invited to use this topic to discuss the quotations from A Family Affair – a Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout.

You may also use this thread for general discussions about this literary work; you do not necessarily need to discuss specific quotations.

Or, if you'd like to talk about anything else related to Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, or Rex Stout, feel free to create a new discussion topic.


Oh, and - SPOILERS! probably, at some point :wink:

I may be jumping the gun here - I haven't finished reading it yet - but I would like to know the general opinion of those who have already reached the end. I'm fairly excited to be at this point, and I'm clipping along at a fair speed, but the story produces a rather melancholy mood, and I can't wait to dip back into the earlier corpus. I'm reading it more as a milestone than a story; and I also want to judge for myself if Orrie is guilty. Is this Stout's life reflected in Wolfe's seclusion, I wonder?

I do like that Lily has a sparky line or two in this, although her pottering relationship with Archie always bothers me, and I laughed out loud when some lawyer - I've forgotten his name already - leaves the brownstone in a funk and tells Archie not to let him out, because 'You smell' (how childish is that?), so there will be some quotes to follow ...

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Mon, 1 Oct 2007, 17:27
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Replying to myself. Not good.

Anyway. I finished this in record time, but I am not impressed. Starfish, steer clear - I sat there shaking my head, mouth hanging open, as I read Saul and then Wolfe explain everything; talk about a stretch! :roll:

I did like Wolfe and Archie's contrasting reactions, and the tension created in the brownstone; a very dark book, but with a weak conclusion (I thought). Oh, and Lily is back on form - in the last book, granted, but she gets in a couple of good lines (only a pity Archie was not up to his usual standard).

Theodore also gets in a line (must be his, what, third? Fourth?), which I enjoyed: 'It's always bad when you come up here' (to Archie).

I don't think I'll be reading it again, however - I just couldn't comfortably associate it with the rest of the corpus, and it depressed me.

If you can present a counter-argument to my defence of Orrie, Faterson, I have expounded my incredulity on my LiveJournal page: In defence of Orrie WARNING! SPOILERS!

They lost me! :wink:

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Tue, 2 Oct 2007, 20:52
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Not to worry, Adonis.
After catching spoiler snippets here and there, I vowed to neither buy nor read this last book.
I shall live happily forever in the brownstone of the 40's, thank you! Where Archie could zip all over NY, often on foot and Wolfe had his corn delivered fresh from the farm!

Why is it, that when some authors get to their personal "end of the line", they exhibit the urge to destroy, for the loyal reader, what they created over a life-time.
See, AC's "Curtains" - deplorable!
Here we are, like lemmings, lapping up the happy fantasies they conjure up and suddenly, these authors adopt an "apres moi - deluge" attitude and take it all away.
One notable exception is P.G. Wodehouse.
He gave us joy, happiness and funny, funny stuff to the end.
I think he was a happy man, despite some serious speedbumps in his life and undeserved nasties from some philistines. He is my fave! :D


Tue, 2 Oct 2007, 22:12
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starfish wrote:
Not to worry, Adonis.
After catching spoiler snippets here and there, I vowed to neither buy nor read this last book.

Starfish, I only wish I had your will power! :cry: I thought it best to read and judge for myself, but the miserable atmosphere of AFA has truly dampened my spirits; I'm going to watch some of the episodes and re-read some of the funnier, brighter books to get back what Stout ruined for me.

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Why is it, that when some authors get to their personal "end of the line", they exhibit the urge to destroy, for the loyal reader, what they created over a life-time.
See, AC's "Curtains" - deplorable!
Here we are, like lemmings, lapping up the happy fantasies they conjure up and suddenly, these authors adopt an "apres moi - deluge" attitude and take it all away.
One notable exception is P.G. Wodehouse.
He gave us joy, happiness and funny, funny stuff to the end.
I think he was a happy man, despite some serious speedbumps in his life and undeserved nasties from some philistines. He is my fave! :D


I couldn't agree more, unfortunately. 'Apres moi - deluge': a perfect description. Stout at least tried to lead up to the events in AFA, but only succeeded in lousing up the one factor he always excelled in - the characters. His mysteries have never been original or spectacular, and after a point he started repeating himself, but I could always rely on Wolfe and Archie - or thought I could. I think it's a back-handed compliment to say that his writing conveyed expertly the philosophic and melancholy attitude of the brownstone; I picked up on it only too well, and can't seem to shake it.

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Tue, 2 Oct 2007, 22:52
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Adonis, I go further even than not reading certain books.
Whenever I come upon an unfavorable idiosyncracy in Wolfe, I say, BAH, that is not Nero, just Stout, projecting his semi-warped self. Like the often extreme rejecting and discounting attitude towards women in general, the constant absurd beer guzzling and the sometime verbose blathering.

On the other hand, when Wolfe is unwavering in keeping his schedule, brainstorms with Fritz in the kitchen about recipes, or does battle over juniper berries, plays the congenial and gracious host, enjoys Fritz's efforts with abandon and trusts Archie with his vulnerabilities - then I think Stout is pure genius. :lol:

Quick, get back to something warm and fuzzy like Black Orchids, 4th of July Picnic, Easter Parade, Christmas Party, Door to Death, etc.

After all, it is our 'castle in the air' and we will furnish it anyway it pleases us. :P

P.S. Sell the offending object on e-bay and use the proceeds to treat yourself to a beautiful orchid for your home. :D


Wed, 3 Oct 2007, 0:30
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I only have time to comment quickly that I don't really understand what the complaints are about. I'd say A Family Affair is one of the best Wolfe novels – not a great novel, but I'd rank it in the top half of Wolfe novels in terms of quality, perhaps even in the top 10. And, there are quite a few seasoned Nero Wolfe fans who even believe that A Family Affair, the final Wolfe volume, is the best of them all – just like to me, the very first Wolfe volume, Fer-de-Lance, appears to be the finest Wolfe book. Neither of these two extreme assessments seems to be insupportable. :wink:

When I'll be re-reading A Family Affair next time, I'll be happy to analyze this in more detail, providing counter-arguments to Adonis's journal entry. 8)


Wed, 3 Oct 2007, 7:32
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starfish wrote:
Adonis, I go further even than not reading certain books.
Whenever I come upon an unfavorable idiosyncracy in Wolfe, I say, BAH, that is not Nero, just Stout, projecting his semi-warped self. Like the often extreme rejecting and discounting attitude towards women in general, the constant absurd beer guzzling and the sometime verbose blathering.


Yes! I've said that before (Danielle would no doubt back me up). Stout often used Wolfe, in particular, and Archie as his mouthpieces, and the result often jars with the characters and the story. Also, he had the occasional male fantasy - Jill Hardy in Doxy ('Get up and put your arms around me'), and Rosa in Too Many Women, for instance. So I have been practising at mentally editing the corpus! :wink:

Faterson, I knew you would deliver :wink: I personally think that Stout was slipping in the 60s and 70s, and shouldn't have written A Family Affair, but that's just my opinion. The last book is full of inconsistencies, such as Wolfe quoting the Bible and then Archie informing us that Wolfe hates people who quote, and Archie, who never uses the elevator, taking a witness up in it two flights to his room. And the characters are all out of whack in other, smaller details; not to mention Orrie. It would have been a gratifying conclusion, with Archie solving the case independently because Wolfe is trying to protect him, if the solution made any sense. The clues suddenly leap from a lot of author's-note drivel about Watergate to this unbelievable revelation of betrayal; I was left disappointed because Wolfe, Archie et al were all 'dealing' with this event that I just couldn't accept. And I always think it's a measure of the mystery if Stout has Wolfe expounding everything to Cramer at the end, just to make sure the reader is following - Saul and Archie gave the points that lead to the murderer, and then Wolfe has to reiterate it. Clumsy.

Chandler built up to his best book, Stout was only winding down.

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Wed, 3 Oct 2007, 11:31
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Stout mixed mystery with politics on other occasions.
'Too many Cooks' and 'Right to die' come to mind.
To my taste, I prefer mystery writers to stick to mysteries, romance writers to romance and cookbook writers to recipes.
Politics change and so do emotions and opinions there of.
And while there is nothing wrong with a dedective having a dalliance or two (or 3), a romantic sleuth duo spells major boredom.

Aren't we taking these books a bit too serious? Somehow I suspect Stout has a quiet chuckle watching the degree of vehemence with which we look for profundity, deeper meaning and what not. On some boards the author can be spoken of only in hushed tones and bowed head.
Isn't it all just entertainment ? Real life happens elsewhere.
What if Stout just wanted to write something that made him a.) be respected as a writer, b.) liked, and c.) afforded him a gracious life style. ?
He was searching until he found the Archie/Wolfe formula - strangely reminiscent of the Jeeves/Wooster formula.
I often find parallels.


Thu, 4 Oct 2007, 0:10
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starfish wrote:
Stout mixed mystery with politics on other occasions. 'Too many Cooks' and 'Right to die' come to mind.

That speaks volumes - I don't like one, and don't want to read the other (I can't even believe 'democratic' America had to pass a Civil Rights law in the 1960s, and I certainly don't want to read Stout's views on the matter imposed on Wolfe and Archie).

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Aren't we taking these books a bit too serious? Somehow I suspect Stout has a quiet chuckle watching the degree of vehemence with which we look for profundity, deeper meaning and what not. On some boards the author can be spoken of only in hushed tones and bowed head.

Oh dear, I hope I haven't hit that level! :oops: I'm personally not in awe of Stout - he created two worthy characters in Wolfe and Archie, but he is far from sublime. I read on other boards comments like, 'How clever of Stout to reveal through Saul that Archie's reports do not tell the reader everything', whereas I tend to think that Stout made last-minute plot and character deviations that have no supporting references, and that's why Archie doesn't mention important details earlier. I'm not sure if the writer is to blame for his reputation, or if fans just don't like to believe that he could do any wrong, but it's praise enough from me that I can be so stirred by his characters!

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He was searching until he found the Archie/Wolfe formula - strangely reminiscent of the Jeeves/Wooster formula. I often find parallels.


Do you mean in Stout and Wodehouse's respective styles, or in their characters? I've heard this said before, and I think Goodwingrad once provided examples. Jeeves and Wooster are certainly an inseparable duo, like Wolfe and Archie! And are Wodehouse's stories era-specific, or are J and W ageless, too?

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Thu, 4 Oct 2007, 11:28
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Sorry Adonis, none of my mutterings were meant to resonate with you or anyone else in particular. Just one of my 'hot buttons'. :)
You asked, are the Wooster stories era-specific or age less - a most interesting question. They may be both.
Bertie is certainly a creature of his time with all the trimmings, but Wodehouse, unlike Stout, refrained from inserting heavy handed politics and personal issues. He emphasized humor, and that is time less.

As to parallels, I once compiled a list, but lost it.
Let's see, there is of course the father/son relationship, balanced by interdependence.
All four valued their bachelor status. Wolfe just carries it a bit further.
Each team is heaquartered in a metropolis.
There is Fritz and Anatole, both culinary experts, both temperamental, both highly valued.

There are also several expressions I can't recall at the moment.

Interestingly, Stout never, to my knowledge, referes to J&W characters, whereas Wodehouse makes very generous mention of Stout's work. Aunt Dahlia is a fan and Bertie once said, he had heard Wolfe use "Pfui" with good results, so he would also. :lol:

I too believe that there was less planning and quite a bit more 'ad lip' in Stouts stories and character developement. Expert opinions not withstanding :twisted:


Fri, 5 Oct 2007, 1:26
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Hello! It is me Goodwingrad! I was just browsing through and decided to quickly add to something here. I don't have much time to go in a full fledged debate with supporting material, but I had this urge that I HAD to defend Stout. I always do.

SPOILER ahead! I won't respond to Adonis's response to AFA yet, since we will be discussing it elsewhere. (I was reading some of your Defense of Orrie, and I can see you are really angry! haha) However, I will say that this last book was not a destroyer of anything. For me, it was a beautiful climax to a wonderful and spectacular series! And I really don't care about Orrie being the murderer, other than the fact that it is cool to have the murderer turn out to be one of the gang. I don't know, maybe it is because not only am I a mystery lover but I love literary works in general. I enjoy human drama, I especially enjoy melancholy or sad drama. Not depressing stories just for the sake of being depressing, but sad events that happen in order to help build up characters and/or the meaning of the story. Several that come to my mind are Les Miserable, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Uncle Tom's Cabin. I don't know if anyone has read any of those, but those books made me cry...in a good way. I love being moved to tears. Not that AFA moved me to tears (though I really did feel like I could be!), but in a small mystery style way Orrie turning out to be the murderer has that same emotional impact. To me, it is a good thing. Oh yeah, and I never liked Orrie anyway.

The same goes for Agatha Christie's Curtain, and even for Sir Arthur Canon Doyle's The Final Problem, if he had been allowed to keep Sherlock Holmes dead that is. For me, The Final Problem was a much more exciting ending than for Sherlock Holmes to go off in retirement. Though, I'm glad that he was able to have more mystery stories, it would have been poetic to have him die defeating his last enemy. Poor Sir Arthur. I feel bad that he couldn't have what he wanted because people loved his work so much! Then there is Curtain, which actually really left me tearing up, or at least feeling like I almost could. I thought it was a wonderful end to a wonderful series! I love how she cleverly weaves both the end and the solving of the murder together. I won't be too specific because of spoilers, but I lovelovelove that book! Which is why it was one of the first ones I bought! Haha!

P.G. Wodehouse's stories are way different. His is all comedy, of course he wouldn't add anything sad-worthy in his work. I really loved the ending to that series too. It was perfect.

You see I never complain! 8)

You know, I don't think you guys should limit yourself to only the happy brownstone days when there is so much more to the story. How can you deny what comes after or before? How would you feel if you were an author of a series and people were like "Nah, that isn't right, I'm sticking to the beginning." The author is boss, and I always endeavor to be respectful to authors and their stories. I can only either love or hate, I cannot love and hate at the same time. It just seems wrong.

Oh and Starfish, though I agree that Stout projects himself within his work which has devestating results, Wolfe's dislike of women, beer guzzling, and verbose blathering as you put it, is all in Wolfe's character not Stout's. I thought that was perfectly clear throughout the corpus. Wolfe dislikes women, he's always consistent in that. (I'm thinking it is because his wife tried to kill him! Now he can't trust women! I imagine that he loved this woman, whoever she was, very much but was traumatized when she tried to kill him.) Beer is Wolfe's thing. You can't separate beer from Wolfe. And Wolfe is an egomaniac who loves to talk! How many times does Cramer tell us that? That's who he is. You can't deny the character! Gah! It pains me and I'm not even the author!


Quote:
Aren't we taking these books a bit too serious? Somehow I suspect Stout has a quiet chuckle watching the degree of vehemence with which we look for profundity, deeper meaning and what not.

Oh dear, I hope I haven't hit that level! I'm personally not in awe of Stout - he created two worthy characters in Wolfe and Archie, but he is far from sublime.


*raises her hand ethusiastically* I'm at that level! Hahahaha! :lol: Sometimes I think, like Starfish pointed out, that Stout's work isn't as serious as I sometimes think it is, but one cannot deny what is there. His characters are serious, in a subtle way. And I love Rex Stout for his subtlety! Let me repeat what I said to Adonis in an e-mail: I really admire Rex Stout as a writer. I don't know about his other work, but he is really a genius when it comes to his Wolfe series. Yeah, he might have some mistakes here and there, but his mastery of the written word just intrigues me. I have never read anything quite like his work. He implies so much through dialogue, really getting you to think of the hidden meanings. He drives the emotions of his characters very deeply, without ever losing the sense of humor and quirkiness of his style. How does someone do that? It simply amazes me. And this is a mystery series too! Mystery stories are usually one dimensional and all about the murders and solving the murders. The world of Nero Wolfe actually means so much more than that, and that is why I enjoy every novel, mistakes and all.

The end!

Okay, that wasn't short or quick, but okay. Hehe!


Fri, 5 Oct 2007, 17:21
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Goodwingrad wrote:
I won't respond to Adonis's response to AFA yet, since we will be discussing it elsewhere.

That's too bad. :( I'd love to see you refute Adonis right here, because as things stand now, this particular thread might well be characterized as an A Family Affair-bashing thread, and I myself don't have the time right now for a full-fledged counter-attack either. :twisted:

(If you could at least spare a copy of your response to Adonis to post here in the forum after-the-fact, all lovers of A Family Affair would appreciate that. :wink:)

Goodwingrad wrote:
Wolfe dislikes women, he's always consistent in that. (I'm thinking it is because his wife tried to kill him! Now he can't trust women! I imagine that he loved this woman, whoever she was, very much but was traumatized when she tried to kill him.)

Surely you jest! Nero Wolfe (just as Archie) never married. To suggest otherwise sounds blasphemic to a Wolfe fan's ears – you know, like some of those modern novels or movies that try to suggest that Jesus Christ was actually a married man, or at least heavily romantically involved with Mary Magdalene? :P

That story about a wife trying to poison him was part of Wolfe's bamboozling scheme in one of the novels – I forget which one.

You do realize, ladies, that it's not necessary for any of you to try to poison us men, other than by your great looks, for those of us who are romantic in nature, just as Wolfe and Archie both were, to decide to avoid marriage forever :!:

Also, Goodwingrad, this is where our collections of quotations come in handy; it's easy to refute your claim that “Wolfe disliked women” by pointing to chapter 14, page 180 of Some Buried Caesar, where Nero Wolfe says:

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I rarely dislike women, and never like them, Miss Rowan.


Fri, 5 Oct 2007, 18:16
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Faterson wrote:
That's too bad. :( I'd love to see you refute Adonis right here, because as things stand now, this particular thread might well be characterized as an A Family Affair-bashing thread, and I myself don't have the time right now for a full-fledged counter-attack either. :twisted:

That's where yourself and Goodwingrad come in, Faterson! :wink: I was waiting for you to balance the scales, as t'were.

Quote:
That story about a wife trying to poison him was part of Wolfe's bamboozling scheme in one of the novels – I forget which one.

Wolfe was speaking to Archie when he told the story of a woman trying to poison her husband with a cure for a headache - and he was about to say that the woman was his wife when Archie cut him off. I've always wondered about that reference - why would he bamboozle Archie? I can't remember which story it is now, but it's not Over My Dead Body, when he mentions 'skedaddling' from a woman, or where he tells an FBI agent that he never married. Another inconsistency from Stout, who had Wolfe as born in the US in OMDB, but Montenegro nearly every other time the point is raised.

Quote:
Also, Goodwingrad, this is where our collections of quotations come in handy; it's easy to refute your claim that “Wolfe disliked women” by pointing to chapter 14, page 180 of Some Buried Caesar, where Nero Wolfe says:

Quote:
I rarely dislike women, and never like them, Miss Rowan.

That's true, it's mostly claimed that Wolfe is just afraid of women, and thinks them either cunning and on the verge of hysterics, or already hysterical! :wink: If they show a modicum of sense, however, and share at least a common interest with him - Julie in Doxy, with her cynical view of humanity, or that irritating Mayella character in an early story who helps in the kitchen - then he approaches them as fellow beings, and is civil.

Archie, who frequently claims that Wolfe claims he is an expert on the opposite sex, is always aware of a woman's gender, though usually only the surface appeal, unless her character also impresses him (and it's always a bonus, never an alternative - she has to be beautiful to even rate his attention): Lily Rowan, Lucy Valdon, and Julie Jacquette, to name three, have been good matches for Archie, because they are more than just pretty faces.

I imagine it took a close call to scare both Wolfe and Archie into defensive bachelorhood: Wolfe's wife, and the girl Archie mentioned in Fer de Lance that he was 'soft on', who found someone else and hurt him, but lead him to Wolfe.

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Fri, 5 Oct 2007, 22:23
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Faterson wrote:
That's too bad. :( I'd love to see you refute Adonis right here, because as things stand now, this particular thread might well be characterized as an A Family Affair-bashing thread, and I myself don't have the time right now for a full-fledged counter-attack either. :twisted:


Oh sure! I will definitly post here what I say in the e-mail. I just figured I wouldn't do it in two places considering I really don't have enough time for much lately, and it is just going to get worse. I shall defend AFA with much vigor! 8)

Quote:
Surely you jest! Nero Wolfe (just as Archie) never married. To suggest otherwise sounds blasphemic to a Wolfe fan's ears – you know, like some of those modern novels or movies that try to suggest that Jesus Christ was actually a married man, or at least heavily romantically involved with Mary Magdalene? :P
That story about a wife trying to poison him was part of Wolfe's bamboozling scheme in one of the novels – I forget which one.


I do not jest! As Adonis pointed out, Wolfe was talking about his wife in a completely serious moment, but Archie cut him off. (How sly of Stout!) I don't know how you can read the corpus and not notice these things, but then again I was utterly focused on the characters. Every scrap of subtle information about Wolfe and Archie that Rex Stout would throw at the reader I snatched eagerly. I just can't remember what book it was from now. I do believe it is one of the books I have on my shelf, so I will have to look through them. When I find it I will post it up to prove that I'm not one of those idiots who think Jesus Christ was married to Mary Magdalene, but that Rex Stout provides all the imaginative stimulate I need in order to come to the conclusion that yes, Wolfe was married and yes she tried to murder him.


Fri, 5 Oct 2007, 23:10
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We can go around the mullberry bush forever and still be faced with the fact that what some see as poignant revelations in sacred texts, others reject as not fitting the characters of Wolfe and Company, aka, sloppy writing.

Let's agree to disagree.

We will allow you to genuflect, if you will allow us the occasional 'boo - hiss'. :wink:


Sat, 6 Oct 2007, 0:55
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