Excerpt from The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Grand Complication

by Allen Kurzweil

The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil X
The Grand Complication by Allen Kurzweil
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2001, 360 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2002, 512 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter 1

THE SEARCH BEGAN with a library call slip and the gracious query of an elegant man.

"I beg your pardon," said the man, bowing ever so slightly. "Might I steal a moment of your time?"

He deposited his slip on the reference desk and turned it so that the lettering would face me. And if this unusual courtesy wasn't enough to attract attention, there was also the matter of his handwriting – a gorgeous old-fashioned script executed with confident ascenders and tapering exit strokes – as well as the title of the book he requested. Secret Compartments in Eighteenth-Century Furniture played right to my fascination with objects of enclosure.

"Let's see what we can do for you, Mr. – " I double-checked the bottom of the slip before uttering his improbably literary name. "Henry James Jesson III."

After I had directed him to the tube clerk, curiosity got the best of me, so I rang the stack supervisor and asked that she expedite retrieval. In a further breach of protocol, I pushed through the swing gate and planted myself near the dumbwaiter in Delivery, where I waited for the book to surface.

"This is terribly kind of you," Jesson said as I slid Secret Compartments under the brass grille.

"Glad to be of service."

I was professional enough not to mention the uncanny overlap of our interests – I don't meet many readers keen on lettering technique and enclosures. But that same restraint left me mildly disappointed. The call slip was so enticing, our exchange so stilted and brief.

Jesson settled himself at a table near the municipal tax codes. He quickly supplied further proof of a charmingly outmoded manner by digging deep into his capacious trouser pockets to extract a roll of paper, a tiny ink pot, and a calligraphy pen. Though he seemed to ignore the stares of nearby readers, he occasionally glanced in my direction, as if to confirm that I'd stuck around. Which, of course, I had. In fact, while he took notes on Secret Compartments, I took notes on him, convinced that the consonance of our uncommon pursuits demanded annotation.

He wore billowy trousers of moss-green corduroy that had wale as thick as pencils. These he partnered with a button-down shirt of subtle stripe and a dainty chamois vest tied at the back with a fat purple ribbon. He had an indulgent-looking face and blue-gray eyes that recalled the color of the buckram on my compact OED. Despite a bump at the bridge of his nose and teeth that predated fluoridation, he was undeniably handsome, a scholar who appeared unencumbered by the tattered frugality of most academics I assist. Those, in toto, were my preliminary observations of the elderly man wishing to steal a moment of my time.

When the closing bell sounded, I sifted through the wire basket of call slips kept at Returns. My friend Norton noticed me swapping the calligraphic original for a quickly scribbled substitute.

"A little something for your collection?"

I nodded.

"What is it this time?"

"Just some furniture book," I said, downplaying my interest. Norton and I disagreed about the utility of paper records, and I didn't want to be deflected from inspection by yet another sparring session.

I located Jesson's book without difficulty. Secret Compartments was filled with line drawings of card tables, glass-fronted cabinets, and pedestal globes, each image accompanied by a technical description of the mechanism triggering release.

Norton glanced over my shoulder and chuckled. "Let's see here. A book about false fronts and hidden recesses." He paused. "Seems an awful lot like you."

Chapter 2

AFTER MR. SINGH, one of our more vigilant exit guards, doweled through my satchel with his stick of polished pine, I said good night to Norton and started the long walk uptown.

Copyright © 2001 by Allen Kurzweil. Reprinted by permission of Hyperion.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Wolf Season
    by Helen Benedict
    Rin Drummond's nicknames include "Pit Bull" and "Dragon." She's a tough-as-nails Iraq War ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    by Walter Isaacson
    The name Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most recognized in all of Western history, and his ...
  • Book Jacket: The Immortalists
    The Immortalists
    by Chloe Benjamin
    On a summer day in 1969 in New York City, the Gold children agree to seek out a mysterious ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

A story that is at once quirky, charming, heartbreaking, suspenseful and poignant.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Days When Birds Come Back
    by Deborah Reed

    A graceful testament to endurance, rebuilding, and the possibilities of coming home.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Mothers of Sparta

Mothers of Sparta: A Memoir

A dazzling literary memoir with shades of Mary Karr, Anne Lamott and Jenny Lawson.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A J O A Thousand M B W O S

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.