What does it mean to read like a detective? While critics have long seen the detective novel as a model for hermeneutic suspicion (the familiar spatial binaries of surface/depth, concealed/revealed), this essay proposes that there is something more timely at work in detective work. Recent detective novels like Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union and Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games require us to reassess the temporalities of expectation, deferral, and disappointment that have traditionally shaped the genre. Detective fiction, these texts suggest, is all about making us wait. Detection, then, is not a stance of suspicion or a law of revelation but a process that illuminates what it means to be subject to time. Ultimately, I argue, the figure of the wait describes not only the narrative time of unmet expectations but also the experience of our most timely historical category: the contemporary itself. Neither proleptic nor periodizable, the contemporary may be most aptly described as a wait. The long wait of the contemporary detective novel shows us how the act of reading is both embedded in and reflective of the times that make up our present time.
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Theodore Martin; The Long Wait: Timely Secrets of the Contemporary Detective Novel. Novel 1 August 2012; 45 (2): 165–183. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-1573922
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